To me, “excellent financial shape” means being able to pay for all the things that need doing, like fixing roads and undergrounding more train tracks — not to mention smaller projects like allocating matching funds for sand replenishment. A city with $394 million in unfunded projects doesn’t make the cut, in my view, and to proclaim otherwise is disingenuous.With respect to underfunding road maintenance, the city's consultant's report last year said:
Blakespear says that on June 10 the Encinitas City Council is scheduled to approve a “balanced budget,” but in truth it’s easy to balance a budget and make it appear a city is in “excellent financial shape” by underfunding roads and facility maintenance. As for the projects that made the priority list, the Beacon’s Beach bluff repair — which according to Glenn Pruim, Encinitas’ director of public works and engineering, will require placing a mixture of cement and sand at the base of the bluff — is estimated to cost $3.2 million, not $750,000, as Blakespear maintains in her commentary.
As for Blakespear’s contention that the city pays about $5 million each year in total debt service, for an “excellent” debt ratio of 7.9 percent, ask any economist and he’ll tell you the only thing this means is that Wall Street feels that repayment is secure. The problem is that Encinitas simply doesn’t have the cash flow to take on more debt, unless it wants to further defund maintenance and capital improvements. Encinitas is certainly not going bankrupt, but it is a city that is only living within its means because it is allowing things it should be doing to slide. Funding the roads and facilities at a level that allows them to continue to degrade is not sustainable over the long term, and not being able to fund the entire list of capital improvement projects denies city residents the desired amenities that they deserve.
Based on the principle that it costs less to maintain roads in good condition than bad, the StreetSaver program strives to develop a maintenance strategy that will improve the overall condition of the network to an optimal PCI somewhere between the low and mid 80's. Although the average PCI of the roadway network is 75.1, which is in the “good to excellent” condition category, a significant portion of the network suffers from load-related distresses. If these issues are not addressed, the quality of the road network will inevitably decline. In order to correct these deficiencies, a cost-effective funding, maintenance, and rehabilitation strategy must be implemented.The same report estimated costs to maintain the sub-optimal 75 average would be $3.26 million per year, which would allow the number of roads falling into the "failed" category to increase seven-fold, from 0.6% of our roads to 4.2% of our roads. The city is expected to fall short of even this funding level.