Measure M Ghost Lives on During Budget Talks
Supervisors Consider Money-Saving Scheme for Maintenance
Measure M didn’t pass the sniff test with voters last week, but its scent carried over to the supervisors’ budget discussion on Monday, with arguments over how to address county maintenance costs. Nearly 52 percent of voters rejected Measure M — those in North County and Isla Vista were more supportive of it; City of Santa Barbara residents especially weren’t — but its champion, Supervisor Peter Adam, stuck with his mantra that more needs to be done. “The people older than me are having a party, and the people younger than me are going to get the hangover,” he said.
The other four supervisors favor a funding scheme similar to the one for the planned North County Jail, where money is set aside incrementally every year based on growing revenues; they can choose between set percentages, which they can change depending on the economy. County staff would have discretion over how that money is divided among the facilities’ annual upkeep ($17 million-$39 million) and those facilities’ backlog ($257 million for roads, $84 million for parks and buildings). Auditor-Controller Bob Geis, with whom Adam engaged in a feisty back-and-forth, pointed to the money included in the budget for all maintenance — $35.1 million in new and ongoing monies — and explained, “It’s not that we’re not doing anything.”
Still, Adam said Monday he would propose something “more aggressive” at Wednesday’s hearing, where the supervisors were scheduled to finalize the budget and further discuss maintenance. (That meeting occurred after press time; visit independent.com for an update.)
The hours leading up to the maintenance talk provided a broad overview of the 2014-2015 budget, which will see revenues ($905 million) exceed expenditures ($903 million) for the first time in many years. The county will add 115 jobs to its roster — many related to the Affordable Care Act — for a total of 4,119 positions. Also noted Tuesday but not elaborated on was that operating costs for the entire North County Jail campus — including the recidivism-reducing wing — are expected to hover around $17.3 million; in April, the Sheriff said the main portion, minus that wing, would cost $15.8 million. An update on those costs is scheduled for July.