- Last Updated on 22 June 2012
The following are SOSroads.org initial observations about the Ad Hoc Road Report.
First, we compliment Supervisors Zane and Rabbitt and the Public Works staff for moving quickly after forming the Ad Hoc Committee on Roads to issue a report with recommendations to increase road funding and a plan to develop new sources of funding for repairing our roads.
SOSroads requested that the county return to the 1990 level of $15 million (adjusted to today's dollars) an ongoing basis for county road financing from the general fund. The report recommends $15 million only for the next fiscal year. After that, county funding goes back to $7.7 million, $5.5 million from the general fund and $2.2 from the Solid Waste Franchise Fee.
Unfortunately the report does not address how the majority of the county's failing roads are going to be repaired. The plan does not expand the priority road network beyond the 197.2 miles previously established by the board. It only adds 43 miles of "tourist destination and agricultural area roads" of which only 7.6 miles will be repaired in the coming year. Nor does it explain the criteria that will be used to repair 53 percent (or 726 miles) of county roads that are now classified as poor or failed. The county estimates it will take $92.6 million PER YEAR to maintain about half of county roads that are in the worst shape. This is a gigantic problem that is nearly equal to the amount the county is obligated to pay out of the general fund to pay for pensions every year.
The report recommends a one-time allocation of $8 million from from Tax Loss Reserve fund to achieve the $15 million funding level. $6.5 million of the $8 million reserve fund will be used to rehabilitate only 7.6 miles of rural roads in the near term. The rational for fixing these roads is to fund "roads that enhance the county economy" through tourism and agriculture. An additional 35.
The report also recommends $1.5 million of the reserve fund be used for a "county and community partnership program" consisting of "citizen group participation in the cost improving their roads" or "voluntary work efforts." The report did not elaborate how "citizen group participation" would be implemented.
Options for new funding sources for roads include 1/4 cent sales tax, Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) increase and special property tax assessments. The report says these measures require Sonoma County voter approval. Additional funding may also come from statewide vehicle fee and/or gas tax increases, both of which will require statewide voter approval or legislative action.
New funding at the local level will still be needed to dig ourselves out of the potholes and to save our roads. However, SOSroads maintains that new funding measures should be proposed only after the county has shown it is seriously addressing its unbalanced salary and pension compensation program.
The Ad Hoc Committee on Roads funding plan falls dramatically short in defining how over half of the county roads are going to be saved and does not address the less expensive preservation measures needed on the roads that haven't yet failed. The plan will spend $6.5 million to rebuild just 7.6 miles of roads or $855,263 per mile, which is more than double the cost of "full rehabilitation" of pavement (cited on page 23 of the report) and 7-16 times the cost for other road repair options.
We still need a long-term plan to address the 700+ miles of roads that are failing or that will fail in the near future. We urge the Ad Hoc Committee to continue to work on developing a plan for Saving Our Sonoma Roads.