Wednesday, March 21 , 2018, 8:23 pm | Light Rain Fog/Mist 57º


Local News

Santa Barbara Public Works Expecting $9.6 Million in Drought Costs for 2015-16

The City of Santa Barbara is expecting to spend $9.6 million on drought-related expenses next year, the Public Works Department revealed at Monday’s budget workshop.

The department handles facilities maintenance, fleet maintenance, engineering and transportation in addition to the city's wastewater and water resources.

Cities hit with the drought are struggling to simultaneously save water and keep revenues from falling, which is almost inevitable with people buying less water.

Santa Barbara is expecting a $5 million hit to its revenues if people start conserving at the 25 percent level, up from the current 20 percent level, water resources manager Joshua Haggmark told the City Council.

The result is higher water rates and wastewater rates for city residents and businesses. The City Council has adopted higher water rates, which go into effect July 1, and will also consider a 5.5 percent increase to wastewater rates and raising trash rates for the next fiscal year.

New water rates are expected to increase monthly bills for residential customers by about $13 for low water users, $30 for moderate water users and $121 for high water users.

The drought is also having an impact on the city’s Cater Water Treatment Plant, which has to handle “increasing challenging surface water” in terms of water quality, Haggmark said.

The proposed $9.6 million drought fund for the 2015-16 fiscal year includes $4 million for groundwater development, $4 for water purchases and $1.6 million for additional staffing, rebate programs, drought advertising and the emergency pumping project at Lake Cachuma, according to the budget presentation. It doesn't include the ongoing expenses of operating the city's water system.

Santa Barbara is still moving forward with plans to reactivate the seawater-to-potable water desalination facility, and is pursuing a loan to pay for the construction costs. Public Works has a $47 million amount as a placeholder in the budget documents presented at Monday's meeting, and Haggmark said the city may be able to get a loan at 1.6 percent for 20 years, with no initial payment down and repayment starting in fiscal year 2018.

In addition to its ongoing operations, the Public Works Department has several capital projects on deck to improve city facilities including a new roof for the Westside Neighborhood Center and a paint job for the Central Library, facilities manager Jim Dewey said.

The department's maintenance funding isn’t enough to keep up with all the needs, and the city has a capital maintenance backlog of $218 million not counting roads, Dewey said. Even though the city has been increasing funding over time, he estimated the department would need twice the current amount of $1.2 million to start making a dent.

The City Council is hearing presentations from each department before starting deliberations at a June 1 meeting, held at 2 p.m. at City Hall, 735 Anacapa St.

A Proposition 218 hearing to consider increasing water, wastewater and solid waste rates will be held at 2 p.m. June 16 at City Hall. Protests in writing can be delivered at the public hearing or to the City Clerk’s Office beforehand, located at 735 Anacapa St.

Noozhawk news editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click here to get started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >