SANTA BARBARA — A proposal to split Santa Barbara County will be put before voters after a petition drive got the issue on the ballot.
The petition by Citizens for County Organization Inc. submitted 21,426 valid signatures -- 657 more than were needed to make the ballot, county elections division manager Bob Smith said Friday.
After the county Board of Supervisors officially certifies the results at its Jan. 6 meeting, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will have 120 days to appoint a five-member commission to study the feasibility of splitting Santa Barbara County.
The commission will be asked to determine, among other things, the economic viability of the area that would be called Mission County, the fiscal impact on the remaining Santa Barbara County and how to divide debt and assets between the two.
The panel would have six months to complete its work, but could request an extension from the governor if it did not complete its review in time.
Regardless of the panel's findings, the issue will go before voters, probably in March 2006, Smith said.
The movement to divide the county has been fueled by frustrations from residents in the northern part of the county who feel the county government caters too much to southern interests.
Opponents of the split -- including the Coalition Against the County Split -- have said a division could be economically devastating and would hurt social services.