Last fall, San Leandro officials said the passage of Measure HH, a new 30-year, half-cent sales tax increase would, among other things, help fund the rehabilitation of its roads, already graded as the worst in Alameda County. Voters responded and easily passed the measure, which replaced another, quarter-cent sales tax measure due to expire in three years.
“We made a promise to the community… and we’re keeping the promise as soon as we are able to,” San Leandro Mayor Pauline Russo Cutter said Monday.
However, the rocky roads and problems with potholes in San Leandro may continue to be short-term headaches for residents and visitors. That’s because money potentially budgeted toward road rehabilitation and street sealing is far less than the amount the city estimates it will cost just to maintain roads in their current condition.
The estimated cost of replacing asphalt surfacing in order to achieve the status quo is $6 million, according to a city staff report presented Monday night to the City Council. However, the proposed two-year budget only allocates $2.3 million in 2015-16 and almost $6 million in 2016-17.
One of the reasons for small expenditure for road rehabilitation over the next fiscal year is due to its reliance on proceeds from Measure HH and the county-wide transportation tax, Measure BB. Both were passed by voters last November, but a lag time exists between the state collecting the additional revenue and allocating it to cities and counties starting this April, said Finance Director David Baum.
But, in both years, $1 million in Measure HH tax revenue is proposed for rehabbing and overlaying San Leandro streets. In 2016-17, most of the increase in funding—still only meeting the goal of keeping the streets in their current poor condition—is due to Measure BB funds rising from $510,000 in 2015-16 to nearly $1.3 million the next fiscal year.
The same situation exists with budgeting for annual street sealing of roads, the less costly method of filling new cracks in asphalt with a spidery web of sealer or a thin layer of black slurry is typically a preventative measure. Just to maintain its current status will cost $1.5 million a year, according to Monday’s report.
Yet, only $1 million is proposed for the project in 2015-16, partially derived from Measure B funding (the predecessor to Measure BB) and vehicle registration fees. The next year, like the budget for road rehabilitation, the proposed expenditure only meets the minimum requirement. In addition, proposed allocations for sidewalk repair projects also fall well short of the estimated costs, according to the report.
In an interview, Cutter said she realizes some residents might feel betrayed by the proposed budget for street improvements, but the under-budgeting during the next fiscal year is exacerbated by the fact the expected revenues from Measure HH and Measure BB are not a full-years worth. She added the budget outlined Monday night is far more intricate and does not give a full picture of the city’s plans for roads next year. “I don’t think like an engineer,” Cutter said of the proposal. She plans to soon ask city staff for a more detailed budget picture when it comes to roads.