The Los Angeles County Flood Control District recently celebrated their 100th Anniversary. There is much to be proud of; 483 miles of open flood channels, 3,330 miles of storm drains, 14 major dams and reservoirs, 172 debris basins, 47 pump plants, and an end to the flooding that wiped out developments in the early 20th Century. It has become one of the most efficient systems on the planet to move rain water to the ocean.

They even retrofitted the system with 27 spreading grounds for recharging the groundwater aquifer to enhance our local water supply. Today it takes hundreds of employees to operate and maintain the system and they collect nearly $300 million a year from parcel owners to fund it.

Now the Board of Supervisors is planning a new tax to retrofit the entire system to capture that storm water, to remove the pollutants and use the water to stabilize our local water supply. It’s an admirable goal to protect our oceans and make us less dependent on water from the Colorado River and Northern California.

But it also anticipates a massive undertaking to efficiently and effectively spend $300 million or more each year on top of the $300 million the district already receives. Unfortunately, the District’s recent track record at spending the tax dollars they collect leaves much to be desired.

In the last five years the Flood Control District has received $1.34 billion in revenues from the taxpayers.  They have spent $1.07 of those funds. Leaving $273 million unspent. According to the County’s Consolidated Annual Financial Statements, The Flood Control District has ZERO debt and over $450 million dollars accumulated in the last 10 years.

Much of the existing flood control system is nearing the end of its useful life and needs to be rebuilt, refurbished and rehabilitated. Significant maintenance and removal of years of accumulated debris also needs to be undertaken. These projects are expensive and need to be done continually outside the rainy season. The taxpayers are paying for it and they deserve a timely investment of their dollars.

It is a great disservice to the taxpayers to take their money and not spend it in a timely and cost effective manner when the need is clearly identified. Asking for even more money when nearly half a billion dollars is sitting in the bank is unconscionable.

That money represents thousands of construction jobs. The unbuilt projects represent not just protection from flooding but potentially a big bump in our local water supply.  The taxpayers have every right to be skeptical of new taxes for this agency at this time.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors needs to do a better job of managing the taxpayer’s hard-earned money. If they need help from the private sector to spend this money, they should seek it immediately. They should be looking at the creation of a construction authority to expedite these projects much like was done with the Alameda Corridor East and the Metro Gold Line. Finally, they should be demanding that the Flood Control District prepare a plan to spend down the years of accumulated tax dollars for the purpose for which they were originally collected.

Once they have demonstrated their ability to do those things, then they can be thinking about asking for more money.