The Silicon Valley Voice

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Council discusses setting aside extra budget money for street repairs

A campaign to begin to much-needed repairs to streets and essential infrastructure will likely get underway next year.

At the Santa Clara City Council meeting Tuesday, the city’s finance director, Gary Ameling, told the council that his department has made use of one-time money and spill over from last year’s budget to finally get several capital improvement projects underway.

“We really want to delve into the backlogs of projects that have been deferred over the years,” he said.

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The 2016-17 budget contains an additional $31.8 million over last year’s budget. If council passes the budget, although the budget is balanced, the council will increase the general fund to levels never-before seen by the council, Ameling said.

With this budget, the finance department recommended using $86.3 million of the $752 million budget toward capital improvements, an increase of 18.4 percent.

Ameling broke down the improvements into three categories: general government, enterprise, and streets. Carryover money from previous years puts the total for each of those categories at $43.3, $129.4 and $35.5 million respectively.

General government includes repairs to major pieces of equipment, public buildings, information technology network updates, police and fire projects, and storm drain maintenance. Meanwhile, enterprise includes upkeep in facilities such as the wastewater treatment plant, Silicon Valley Power and cemeteries

One of the major enterprise projects is the $13.3 million rebuild of the Serra substation. The major government projects devote $11 million to soccer fields between two projects. One of the major ongoing street projects is $4 million intersection improvement to the Mission College Boulevard and Great America Parkway intersection.  

The challenge in maintaining the city’s pavement condition index rating of 73 is finding steady funding sources, Ameling said.

The pavement condition index of 80 to 100 is”excellent,” according to the Metropolitan Transmission Commission, while it deems a rating between 70 and 79 “good.”

The city aims to maintain if not improve that rating.

“We all agree that our roads are not at the level they used to be,” said Councilman Dominic Carserta. “Are we ever going to be able to brag that we don’t have any potholes again?”

Ameling said identifying new sources of revenue to fund street repairs is a challenge the council will have to address soon as the gas tax that typically helps fund it is dwindling, and surplus carryover will run out by 2018.

In order to maintain a high pavement condition index score, said City Manager Rajeev Batra, the council will have to roughly double the amount it devotes to annual street repairs.

“Something else would have to give,” he said. “It is a juggling act.”

Vice Mayor Teresa O’Neill said with the increase in electric and hybrid car use, the money from the gas tax is not what it used to be. She said the public needs to get involved, writing their state senators and assembly members demanding they come up with alternatives to the gas tax to fund road projects.

“It behooves us all that state has to look at how we fund roadways,” she said. “We have to be more reasonable as a state … you don’t build roadways out of thin air.”

The council will discuss the operating budget at its May 24 meeting and hold another study session June 7.

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