San Benito County supervisors moved $48,000 from the general fund to the Cienega Road Realignment Fund when they approved the 2016-17 budget during their Aug. 9 meeting. The move was a response to backfill eight years of funding that was never transferred from the sheriff’s budget.
The realignment fund is supposed to receive $6,000 annually from the Hollister Hills State Vehicular Recreation Area. Hollister Hills gives the county around $100,000 each year. Most of it goes toward the sheriff’s budget, and $6,000 of that is supposed to go into the Cienega fund.
Going back, a 1992 memorandum of understanding between the county and Hollister Hills called for a one-time payment of $150,000 from the state to the county in order to cover maintenance costs of repairing Cienega Road.
“The complicating factor, as far as I have been able to ascertain from records, is that in the MOU there was a formula agreed upon between county and state for funding on a yearly basis,” said County Clerk Louie Valdez.
But Valdez said that formula changed around 2008-09 with the addition of buffer zones, specific portions of state land that have common boundaries with private property. The purpose of buffer zones is to mitigate concerns regarding environmental impacts resulting from motorized recreation.
The county agreed to receive money annually from Hollister Hills starting a year after the creation of the buffer zones. But Valdez said the state removed terms and stipulations provided for road maintenance, which led to the money being moved to the sheriff’s office.
“The $100,000 payments were provided in lieu of the $6,000 payments because the previous formula only provided the County around $10,000 to $15,000 per year based upon the number of registered motorcycles within the County that had “green tags” purchased from and registered with the SVRA,” Valdez clarified by email.
At some point, the projects related to Cienega Road finished, he said.
“It does appear that the money was put in that fund to do realignment, but it also appears the requirement may not have been a continuing requirement,” Valdez said.
County staff will conduct a full report and rename the old fund.
“Obviously, there was an oversight, and we need to correct it,” Board Chairman Robert Rivas said.