Healdsburg soon will reap extra revenue from a half-cent sales tax increase approved by voters. But how should that million bucks or so be spent? The answer from a survey of residents was overwhelmingly clear: fix the streets.
More than $2.7 billion is needed to repair crumbling pavement on county roads and city streets over the next decade in Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake counties, a new report has found.
When it would have mattered, almost nobody complained that government wasn’t taking care of streets, roads, highways and other public investments. And so now we arrive at the intersection of declining tax revenues and old expectations about government’s promises to its citizenry.
A small list of crumbling Sonoma County roads will get $6.5 million this year for badly needed repairs under a plan approved Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors.
Crafted by two board members, Shirlee Zane and David Rabbitt, the strategy is the latest tack in the county’s now two-year struggle over how to pay for its beleaguered 1,382-mile road network.
The report includes a number of short and long-term measures, many of which were made public in June. Since then, Zane and Rabbitt, along with county public works staff, have worked on a key question: Which roads to select for upgrades this year.
Their recommendations, which came under some criticism Tuesday, settled on fixing 13.2 miles of roads deemed important to the local economy.
Sonoma County supervisors Tuesday unanimously backed a one-year, $8 million increase in road funding and a search for additional tax revenue to boost long-term road maintenance. The moves were intended to address a reconstruction backlog of nearly $1 billion and tamp down public furor over the beleaguered state of county-maintained roads. ‘It’s very clear that this board is dealing with a legacy problem,’ said Supervisor Mike McGuire. ‘We are just starting to dig out of the mess we’re in.’
Two Sonoma County supervisors have proposed temporarily doubling the county’s contribution to rural road upkeep and some type of tax increase to boost long-term road funding. Without an additional, dedicated source of money for county roads, a maintenance backlog that public works officials have described as ‘staggering’ will continue to grow, Supervisors Shirlee Zane and David Rabbitt said. Their message is contained in a 31-page report being delivered Tuesday to the Board of Supervisors.
‘The official county road maintenance policy is to allow 80 percent of our roads to deteriorate to gravel. It seems obvious (except to our county supervisors) this policy is bad for business, tourism and property values and terrible for all of our quality of life.’
With a road maintenance backlog of $120 million and only $4.5 million dedicated to long-term road upkeep, does anything the 1st District candidates suggest stand any chance of finding support among the public or generating enough money to put a dent in the problem? Three of the five candidates in the race say part of the solution lies in asking county residents to raise their taxes.
Sonoma County supervisors Tuesday approved a small addition to the list of county roads targeted for long-term maintenance while signaling support for study of a possible property tax increase to boost road upkeep. Board members cited county budget pressure and flat state road funding as two of the reasons for the makeshift moves and revenue search.
It will take years to improve the condition of Sonoma County roads. A delay of even a few more years would be catastrophic, says Santa Rosa resident Craig Harrison, co-founder of Save Our Sonoma Roads. He says the Board of Supervisors must examine each item in the county budget and ask the following question: Why is this program or service more important than repairing our roads?