Benefits that will encourage county employees to use alternative transportation, work flexible schedules or work remotely will be considered by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors when it meets Tuesday in Santa Maria.
The benefit options make up the only public hearing item on the agenda for supervisors who are scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. in the Board Hearing Room of the Joseph Centeno Betteravia Government Administration Building at 511 E. Lakeside Parkway.
In December, supervisors directed staff to come up with actions the board could take to “demonstrate leadership in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from employees commuting,” according to a staff report from the Community Services Department.
One of the options the staff came up with is increasing and adding to the benefits the county already offers employees for using less-polluting forms of commuting to work.
Based on a survey of county employees, 73.7% drive to work alone, with 14,4% carpooling, 9.3% taking the bus, 5.1% riding a bicycle, 3.8% walking or skateboarding, 1.6% riding a motorcycle, 1.1% taking the train and 0.5% vanpooling. Another 1.6% telecommute.
Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors generally expressed support for budget proposals from the county’s justice-related departments during the second budget workshop Wednesday, although the sheriff was told he might not get everything he asked for. In the midst of the budget presentations, a bomb threat was made against what Sheriff Bill Brown said were “the building and several people,” which resulted in a 90-minute delay in the board returning from lunch.
Based on the survey, 811 county employees travel from San Luis Obispo and northern Santa Barbara counties to Santa Barbara and 304 commute from Ventura County to Santa Barbara.
Another 136 county employees commute from Buellton, Solvang, Lompoc and the South County to their jobs in Santa Maria.
Employee participation in most of the current incentive programs is relatively low — just 2% take advantage of the county’s pretax contribution of $10 toward bus fare for employees who contribute at least $10 a month.
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About 11% participate in a program that gives employees up to two extra vacation days if they use a qualifying method of commuting at least 80% of the days in a pay period.
On Tuesday, supervisors will consider options for changing or adding incentives to get more vehicles off the road and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide employees are spewing into the atmosphere.
The option with the greatest potential, according to the staff report, would be modifying the vacation bonus program to include the train and zero-emission vehicles as qualifying types, replace the 80% threshold with a sliding scale and increase the number of added vacation days to three.
That would remove an additional 86 to 132 cars from the road and keep an additional 892,000 to 1.3 million pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere each year, but it would also add $52,000 to $245,000 to the annual cost of the program.