2017-04-20 / Community

Council pledges unexpected revenue to fix city roads

FY 2015-16 was best ever for sales tax in the city
By Becca Whitnall

FILLING A NEED—The Thousand Oaks City Council said last week it expects to spend more than $18 million between July 2017 and July 2019 to repair local streets. FILLING A NEED—The Thousand Oaks City Council said last week it expects to spend more than $18 million between July 2017 and July 2019 to repair local streets. The city of Thousand Oaks is on the road to better streets.

A record-breaking year for sales tax revenue combined with a reduction in expenses will allow the city to address two years of deferred maintenance that has left some roads in less-than-stellar condition, the City Council announced last week.

During an April 11 discussion of its upcoming two-year capital improvement budget, Councilmember Andy Fox said the state of city streets is of upmost importance to residents.

“What we’re doing tonight in terms of identifying additional sales tax dollars that obviously could not be anticipated . . . is we are taking those dollars and spending them exactly where we said we needed to,” Fox said. “If council wanted to use this on pet projects, things that might give some sizzle, so to speak, we could do that and that’s exactly what the state of California has done. . . . We’re not doing that.”

Ahead of the passage of its next two-year budget in June, the council discussed how to prioritize capital improvement spending, which must cover a wide array of infrastructure projects, from streets and roads to sewer lines and pump stations to the libraries and theaters.

In all, the city expects to spend $59.1 million on building or maintaining city assets or infrastructure between July 2017 and July 2019.

Of that, an estimated $18.2 million will go to fix streets, a figure that will allow the city to make up for two years of deferred maintenance, Finance Director John Adams said.

“There was not enough funding to support streets and roads so that was the gap that accumulated those two years,” Adams said. “Without doing anything, we already are in the hole $18 million for streets and roads in order to maintain at the current level we expect.”

Much of the additional funds for streets and roads come via an unexpected increase in sales tax revenue, Adams said. In fact, the $30.3 million Thousand Oaks brought in from sales in the city in fiscal year 2015-16 was the highest figure on record in the city’s 53-year history.

“On the other side, expenditures have actually come in lower . . . so there has been a delta between revenue and expenditures that has added to capital reserves,” Adams told the council.

There’s also the matter of Senate Bill 1, the state legislature’s recently approved hike on the gas tax and on vehicle registration.

As a result of SB1, Thousand Oaks expects to receive $700,000 to $900,000 the first two years the gas tax is in place and $3 million annually by 2020, Adams said.

Even with the extra $3 million, the gap between road costs and the city budget won’t be closed entirely going forward, Adams warned.

“I will tell you certainly we’re 75 percent of the way there and we’ll have to discuss that in future years,” he said.

Other council priorities outside of streets include upgrades to the downtown area of Thousand Oaks Boulevard, the half-mile stretch from Erbes to Conejo School roads, and installing sidewalks along Conejo School Road.

Councilmember Al Adam noted he’d like to see additional funding budgeted for those projects.

“We’re trying to build a village downtown,” Adam said. “Part of that has to do with . . . the city revitalizing the boulevard itself with landscaped medians and pedestrian bulb outs and street furniture that’s all important to put this concept into place and we have a certain amount budgeted for that.”

While the other council members have supported and voted for such improvements, some had concerns.

“We’re putting the cart before the horse, if you will,” Councilmember Joel Price said. “If we start making these improvements and then the developments starts coming in behind it, it’s entirely possible that some of those improvements we have made may need to be torn up.”

Staff members noted public improvements would likely be done in conjunction with private development to help avoid the possibility. As well, Adams said, the city would merely be earmarking funds but wouldn’t necessarily have to use them immediately.

Councilmember Claudia de-la Peña also reminded her colleagues of the need to spread the wealth.

“I do have to keep in mind we have to look at the big picture, that is the infrastructure for the entire city of Thousand Oaks, not just three blocks of Thousand Oaks Boulevard,” she said.

The council will vote on the 2017-2019 capital improvement budget in June.

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