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The socio-economic differences between Santa Barbara County’s South Coast and its “colonies” on the north side of the Gaviota Tunnel are exacerbated when our southern neighbors get on their soapboxes against the very industries our communities rely on. The height of hypocrisy was on display recently as the Goleta school board voted to oppose ExxonMobil’s temporary trucking permit currently going through the county approval process. The trucks wouldn’t go through or even near Goleta, and the school district doesn’t depend on revenues generated by the trucking. On the other hand, the Goleta school board’s position would rob millions of dollars of revenues needed for schools in the northern part of the county.
As a former Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District Board president, I understand the importance of property taxes that directly fund local schools. As a result of the county’s decision to not allow trucking in 2015 after the pipeline was shut down, Santa Ynez High School has lost more than $4 million — $800,000 every single year and counting — a significant piece of the budget that has already led to losses of teachers and programs, to include vocational programs that train our youth for high-paying jobs that allow them to remain in our communities. The problems have been even worse for smaller local school districts with high numbers of low-income students, such as Vista Del Mar in Gaviota.
That’s why it’s critical that we support the approval of ExxonMobil’s temporary trucking permit to restart operations at the Santa Ynez Unit facility.
According to a study commissioned by the Santa Barbara County Chamber Coalition, and executed by an agency of UC Santa Barbara, an additional $4.51 million per year would be restored to County K-14 education funding through property taxes after the Santa Ynez Unit is able to restart operations. Many programs, like those at Allan Hancock College, are gateways to employment for students who otherwise would not attend traditional four-year institutions.
Let’s be clear. Allowing trucking from the Santa Ynez Unit does not mean we will stunt efforts in our drive to more and better clean, renewable energy. Instead, it means we will rely less on dirty, carbon-intense energy that is imported from foreign dictatorships across thousands of miles of ocean.
I urge the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors to be mindful of our community’s needs and approve the permit for temporary trucking, so we can get back essential jobs and revenues that support our children and educational institutions.