April 17, 2014

Turlock revives sales-tax idea to fix roads

The city of Turlock has revived the idea of a sales tax increase for road projects within the city, now that a countywide proposal has fallen through.

Officials have revived the idea of a sales tax increase for road projects within the city, now that a countywide proposal has fallen through.

The City Council on Tuesday will consider giving direction to the city staff on the proposal, which could go before voters in November. At least two-thirds approval would be needed.

Councilman Forrest White, who asked for the agenda item, said Thursday that the tax rate and other details have not been decided. He said the half-percentage-point increase that has been discussed in the past would raise about $5 million a year.

White said he would like most of the proceeds to go to the repair of existing streets rather than building new routes.

“We have no mechanism at present to take care of the major thoroughfares and the big feeder streets that everyone uses for shopping and general use,” he said.

Turlock’s sales tax rate is 7.625 percent. A half-percentage-point increase would add 50 cents to a $100 taxable purchase.

White said the tax could run for perhaps five years and could end sooner if a countywide measure succeeds.

The Stanislaus Council of Governments, which includes the county and nine cities, had been working toward putting a half-percentage-point tax increase on the November ballot. The panel dropped the idea last month after polling suggested weak public support.

The Turlock council had talked earlier of a city-only tax, but held off to see what StanCOG would do.

The countywide proposal would have raised an estimated $970 million over 25 years. Of this, 47 percent would have gone to major corridors, including improving West Main Street between Turlock and Patterson. Another 47 percent would have been spent on maintenance of city streets and county roads. The rest would have gone to rail, bicycle, pedestrian and senior projects, including a possible extension of Altamont Corridor Express trains to Turlock.

The Turlock council endorsed that general funding formula before StanCOG dropped the plan. It has not considered a specific list of maintenance projects that could get money from a city tax measure.

Also Tuesday, the council could take another step toward moving from at-large to district elections. The staff has proposed to have a consultant draft a plan for district boundaries for the council to consider later. Voters could decide the matter in November.

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