How many times do we have to read editorials, commentaries and blogs about the out-of-control spending in Santa Barbara County before the Board of Supervisors does something?

Hardly a day goes by that we don’t see an article about the county budget. Joe Armendatiz, executive director of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association, Terry Tyler, retired CPA, Lanny Ebenstein, economics professor at UCSB, and Andy Caldwell, Executive Director of COLAB, have all written extensively about the looming financial threat to the county’s survival.

They generally contain similar statistics – about employee compensation and benefits, the amount of the pension liability and the long-term prognosis if the situation does not change.

Yet, we see almost no action, other than some tinkering around the edges, which seems a little like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Joe Armendariz and Andy Caldwell have frequently appeared at the Board of Supervisors meetings, generally to call attention to the county’s plight and warn of the consequences of not doing anything about it, invariably without any result, other than perhaps boredom by most if not all the supervisors.

What we don’t see or hear much about is the Board of Supervisors taking any action to avert disaster.

In November of last year, Andy Caldwell pointed out that property taxes “have the most significant impact on the county’s fiscal health” and that the rate of growth is “much lower than the average growth rate of 8 percent over the last 30 years…will not be enough to bring property tax levels to pre-recession levels.”

“Despite signs of economic recovery in the county, expenditures continue to grow at a faster rate than revenues.” The 2010-11 budget projected “increases of nearly $24 million, largely as a result of negotiated salary and benefit increases, and an anticipated revenue decline of nearly 1.5 percent.”

Can the county declare bankruptcy and, if they could, what would happen?

We can get an indication from the bankruptcy of the City of Vallejo in Northern California, where the end result was that the police and firefighters were forced by the court to take a cut in pay and benefits.

When the train finally goes off the rails in Santa Barbara County, the Board of Supervisors will undoubtedly wring their hands and decry the situation. However, in spite of their being well aware that at some point the county will be unable to pay its bills, the Board of Supervisors hasn’t taken any significant actions to avert the impending disaster.

No cuts, or at least not much, especially for the employees who are represented by the unions, which seem to have the attitude that their excessive pay and benefits cannot be cut, even if they ultimately eat up at much as 80% of the discretionary budget. Obviously, the 20% that would be left to operate the county’s various departments and agencies is not possible.

But, hey, their “entitlement” can’t be touched. So, while the county sinks under the weight of its debt, the Board of Supervisors can’t seem to bring itself to make enough in the way of cuts to keep the doors open.

© 2011 Harris R. Sherline, All Rights Reserved Read more of Harris Sherline’s commentaries on his blog at: