Give Sonoma County supervisors their due for finding money where it didn't exist to step up repairs on our deplorable roads.
Over the past year, supervisors found additional funds through increased allocation of general fund dollars, designating $2.2 million in revenue from franchise fees from trash haulers and taking $8 million from a special reserve fund.
It all helps. At the same time, it's loose change compared to the county's overall need. There simply aren't enough couches at the county administration building where supervisors can find that kind of change.
Of the county's roads 1,382 miles of roads, fewer than 200 are getting the upkeep they need. And it's going to get worse. By the county's estimate, 53 percent of roads will need reconstruction over the next 10 years. The total cost: $926 million.
Given that the current general fund budget for road repair is $5.3 million a year, that's not going to get the job done.
The county can't count on getting much help from Sacramento either. Although voters approved $6 billion a year in additional revenue by passing Proposition 30 last week, most of that money has already been directed to go to education.
Meanwhile, Gov. Jerry Brown has vowed to hold the line on new spending while the state continues to grapple with financial challenges. The fact is California's economy is not rebounding as quickly as projected. According to the governor's office, tax revenue is coming in slightly more than 2 percent below projections.
The county shouldn't expect to see an increase in the state gas tax anytime soon either, not with gas prices north of $4 a gallon. If locals should expect anything it's to see gas tax revenue continue to be flat or decline as more people buy hybrids and fuel-efficient cars to take the sting out of gas prices.
The fact is counties are on their own to deal with road maintenance shortfalls.
This needs to be the focus of discussion Wednesday when Supervisors Shirlee Zane and David Rabbitt participate in a public forum focusing on this very issue. The forum, sponsored by the advocacy group Save Our Sonoma Roads, will be held at Sonoma Mountain Village in Rohnert Park from 5 p.m. to<QA0>
7 p.m. and will include a presentation by Public Works Director Phil Demery on the state of the county's roads.
Nobody should be satisfied that, under the county's current plan, only 14 percent of roads will get the maintenance and upgrades they need to ensure long-term use. The rest are in line only for patchwork and emergency repairs, which means some — those in the most remote areas — are likely to get little attention at all.
At the same time, if this meeting turns out to be just another forum where speakers vent about state lawmakers and past spending decisions, an opportunity will have been lost.
Locals need to discuss the hard choices before us, which include taxing ourselves in order to bring road maintenance up to where it needs to be.
In remote areas, property-owners also need to discuss pulling together in working with the county to pay for the road upkeep that's needed. The alternative is accepting a system in which a significant portion of the county's roads will return to gravel.