I was looking through the city of Goleta’s Capital Improvement Projects list recently, and it was disheartening. The amount of work and the diverse list of current, future and pie-in-the-sky projects would discourage anyone who hoped our city might live within its means.
This is not to say staff are not working hard. I mean here I have a five-page list of projects, which required hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of design and staff time. But where are the priorities? And more importantly which ones can the city’s taxpayers afford? Which do we really need?
Asking staff to look at and work on an Augean Stable list of projects wastes time and money. Spend time on those that are truly needed and those can come to fruition.
Getting a grant for something which no matter how much, does nothing if the city has to come up with millions for their share.
Consider these numbers from the city of Goleta’s website on CIP’s budget proposals:
— Old Town re-stripping: Estimated cost between $770,000 and $1.12 million.
— The Fowler Road extension proposal: Under funded by $2.7 million.
— The Goleta 101 over crossing proposal: Under funded by $38 million.
— The Goleta Valley Community Center Rehab: Under funded by $7.8 million.
— The Cathedral Oaks Crib wall: Under funded $7.15 million.
— Traffic signal upgrades: Under funded by $1.19 million.
And sadly each one of these projects has a disclaimer that says, “Project costs listed are estimated and should not be used for project budgeting.”
In other words, the real cost is likely to be much higher.
If that is not discouraging, consider that the budget for concrete repair in our city is only $330,000! The city of Goleta has a $42 million backlog for infrastructure projects. With inflation running as high as it is, this deficit is probably closer to $50 million.
It is time to prioritize projects by need, feasibility and cost — not to raise taxes. The city council should show fiscal discipline, not pursue a list of “Gee, but it sure would be nice if we did … blah blah blah.”
The impartial analysis says this money will go into the general fund so the council can spend it any way they wish. There are no binding promises it will clean your beaches and creeks, fix your sidewalk, or repave your cracked and broken residential streets.
Cut projects. Undertake only those that do not bust the budget.
For example an article on the Goleta Train Station estimated cost to be $19 million, and the city won a grant of $13 million. Really? We are going to spend $6 million of Goleta taxpayers’ money so the homeless have a new place to hang out rather than putting that money into repairing our sidewalks and streets?
Or perhaps this money should go to the needed fire station at the end of Hollister Avenue, which has been in the works for over 10 years!
New taxes are not the answer. Certainly not one that is actually a 12.9% increase in the sales tax we pay. That $10.9 million in revenue comes out from the possible sales for large and small businesses in Goleta.
We do not need to play “Keep up with the Joneses” on the sales tax rates. Rather we need fiscal prudence, which means learning to say “No,” to the “wouldn’t it be nice projects” and objectively embracing the possible.
Vote “no” on B202.