State's financial impasse
means local uncertainty
by Kelly Feser Eells
California could take a lesson from local agencies when it
comes to balancing its budget. With the State Assembly still
at a voting impasse (marking the 14th time in 25 years that California
began the fiscal year, which starts July 1, without a budget),
projects like the Loma/Highway 33 traffic signal are on hold
As Caltrans project manager Abdi Saghafi stated, "Once the
governor signs the budget," the long-delayed signal will
go out to bid. But no one is hazarding a guess as to when that
Unlike Caltrans, the Ojai Valley Sanitary District began its
fiscal year, which also begins July 1, on track. "The basic
rate -- for sewer service - is unchanged for the eighth year
in a row," said John Correa, OVSD general manager. "That's
reason to celebrate," he chuckled.
Correa further noted that, while "we considered a rate increase
this year," the district was able to use leftover funds
collected from rate payers for the Treatment Plant Upgrade Project
(completed seven years ago) "as a rate stabilizing"
Sewer service rates, however, seem to be the only constant in
what lawmakers statewide are calling a "fiscal nightmare."
California currently leads the nation with the biggest budget
deficit; at $24 billion dollars, it comprises nearly 60 percent
of the country's total budget shortfall.
Some legislators blame Silicon Valley's stock crash and its effect
on tax revenue. Republicans blame Gov. Gray Davis for "counting
on a bull market to fund a wish list of services." Democrats
blame Republican Assembly leaders for "intentionally stalling"
passage of the budget "...to make a point in an election
year." Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer
Association, blames everyone in Sacramento. "Giving money
to elected officials," Coupal was quoted as saying, "is
equivalent to giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys. Everybody
knew it (the stock market windfall) was one-time money."
Whatever or whoever is the cause, passing the buck, or lack thereof,
is what Sacramento has lately become infamous for. With respect
to the Loma Dr. signal "promised by Sept. 2000," Caltrans
officials claim their hands are tied, and no one is willing to
offer even an approximate project start date. And Mira Monte
School students, as well as other area pedestrians, will likely
be crossing Hwy 33 on a "temporary" safety crosswalk
well into 2003.
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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