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Santa Cruz Co. eyes tax measure to fund roads

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  • 5/14 Santa Cruz Sentinel
    Published Friday, May 14, 2004, in the Santa Cruz Sentinel Ballot measure could smooth roads By Heather Boerner Sentinel Staff Writer SANTA CRUZ -- The
    Message 1 of 1 , May 15, 2004
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      Published Friday, May 14, 2004, in the Santa Cruz Sentinel

      Ballot measure could smooth roads

      By Heather Boerner
      Sentinel Staff Writer

      SANTA CRUZ -- The proposed $550 million transportation ballot
      measure could be just the thing to smooth roads countywide in the
      next several years, some local public works officials say.

      But even the $108.5 million the measure proposes to set aside for
      cities is not expected to be enough to prevent roads from decaying.

      The state budget crisis and the local economic downturn have robbed
      local cities and the county of millions of dollars of road
      maintenance money. Cumulatively, the jurisdictions need more than
      $7 million a year just to maintain roads at their current level or
      improve them slightly.

      For instance:

      * Capitola plans to spend just $20,000 next year on pothole filling,
      even though officials expect to need $400,000-$650,000 a year just
      to keep the roads at their current level.

      * Santa Cruz projects it should be spending $2 million to $3 million
      a year to keep roads at the level they're at or improve them.
      They'll spend about $1 million next year.

      * Watsonville needs about $1.5 million a year just to keep road
      quality levels the same, but is spending $400,000.

      * Santa Cruz County needs to spend $3 million to $4 million a year
      to maintain or improve roads. Next year, they are planning to spend
      nothing.

      Scotts Valley's Public Works Director Ken Anderson declined to give
      statistics on his city.

      "We had money for roads a few years ago," said John Presleigh, the
      county's assistant director of public works. The county has lost
      both state Proposition 42 money and utility tax funds for road
      work. "Then, we had road work everywhere. This year, we'll have two
      weeks of chip seal work, and nothing next year. It's frightening."

      So it may not be surprising that some are looking to the 30-year,
      half-cent sales tax measure to help smooth local roads. The Santa
      Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission holds a June 3 public
      hearing to solicit more comment on the items included in the measure.

      For people like Mark Dettle, Santa Cruz City's public works
      director, the ballot measure could be a godsend. The city received
      grants a year and a half ago of $1.5 million to repair local roads,
      such as High Street. But the state budget crisis deferred payment.
      Meanwhile, the slump in the local economy has made fewer taxes
      available for roads.

      That means things have gotten bumpier for local drivers.

      Dettle anticipates using the city's share of the money to take out
      bonds and get more money up front. That would allow for immediate
      road fixes.

      "That would definitely be a good starting point," he said.

      But not everyone is convinced of the ballot measure's soundness.

      Capitola would receive $139,664 a year from the ballot measure, were
      it to pass in November. But that's far below what the city needs to
      maintain its roads.

      "It's better than nothing, but is it the be-all, end-all?" asked
      Steve Jesberg, the city's public works director. "Not yet."

      Another complication is that each of the city councils would
      determine how the money would be spent, so it's unlikely all of it
      will go to roads. In discussions at the transportation commission,
      some members have talked about giving some of their money to the bus
      district.

      Local transportation money

      The transportation ballot measure proposed for November's election
      includes a provision that more than $100 million of the $550 million
      raised will go to each city and to the county to pay for
      transportation projects as officials see fit.

      Here's the money breakdown, in 2004 dollars, and based on current
      population distribution:

      Capitola

      $139,664 a year;
      $4.2 million over 30 years.

      Santa Cruz

      $783,395 a year;
      $23.5 million over 30 years.

      Scotts Valley

      $161,204 a year;
      $4.8 million over 30 years.

      Watsonville

      $671,220 a year;
      $55.9 million over 30 years.

      Source: Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission


      Contact Heather Boerner at hboerner@...
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