SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - Measure M would make maintenance of county roads, parks and county-owned buildings a funding priority for Santa Barbara County going forward.
Measure M supporters say there are ample county funds to pay for the mandate without any new fees or taxes.
They point to a maintenance backlog in Santa Barbara County that's already in the hundreds of millions of dollars and growing.
They also argue the County has deferred paying for maintenance of county roads, parks and buildings for years that its now snowballed into a major financial crisis that could cripple the County for decades to come.
"There's a thousand ways to skin this cat", says Santa Barbara County Fourth District Supervisor Peter Adam who spearheaded the campaign to get Measure M on the June ballot, "you can spin off some county owned-properties, you can stop spending money on other things, you can increase county revenue which is a longer term project, there's a thousand things we could choose from and odds are we're probably not going to choose anymore than three. or four or five or ten."
"It is my position we can take it out of the whole budget, its the other side's position that you have to just take it out of the General Fund," Adam says, "but at some point that just doesn't matter, because if it gets bad enough, we're going to go from $350 million to by 2027 its supposed to be $750 million just on the roads alone."
"We have to get a handle on this now instead of deferring and deferring and deferring", Adam says, "then we'll have to do something else where, you know, like float a bond or a COP (Certificate of Participation) and then everybody is on the hook."
Measure M opponents warn the mandate would divert funding for important county programs and department including public safety and the staffing and operation of the new North County Jail due to be completed by 2018.
"We do have a problem with our deferred maintenance, I just think getting it on the ballot isn't a plan", says Santa Barbara County Fifth District Supervisor and Measure M opponent Steve Lavagnino, "its everything that is in the unincorporated areas of the county, outside city limits, so don't think if you're going to vote for this your city street is going to get done or your neighborhood park is going to get an overhaul, its not going to happen."
Lavagnino says a recently completed 3.500-page report by a consultant that cost the County $250,000 provides the framework for how to tackle the maintenance backlog without a Measure M mandate.
"Telling us we're going to spend another 30 or 40 million dollars a year on roads, we've got to figure out what programs do you want to cut to implement that or what taxes are going to be raised in order to pay for that", Lavagnino says.
"I don't know what they are talking about, its just a lie", counters Supervisor Adam, "what we are telling them to do is maintain the roads, parks and buildings out of the money we give them now and they are not happy about that."
County Supervisors are to expected to begin reviewing the consultant's report and recommendations in August whether Measure M passes or not.