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Road tax showdown

Council to decide whether to support countywide ballot measure

Road tax showdown

The proposed transportation measure is estimated to generate $970 million over the next 25 years to address transportation needs throughout Stanislaus County. As part of the local street and road p...

POSTED February 21, 2014 7:34 p.m.

The City of Turlock is next on the list for representatives from the Stanislaus Council of Governments - the regional transportation planning agency - who are making their way through the county garnering support for a half-cent countywide transportation sales tax.
The deteriorated conditions of Turlock's roadways have long been a concern of residents and city officials alike. Increased concerns have led the city in the past to support a countywide transportation tax that would not only support various roadway and infrastructure improvements, but also qualify Stanislaus as a ‘self-help' county - a qualification that would make the region eligible to use local dollars to leverage billions of federal and state dollars each year to dedicate towards transportation system improvements.
Although the countywide transportation tax failed by a narrow margin in the 2006 and 2008 general elections, the county is hoping to get it back on the ballot this November. StanCOG executive director Carlos Yamzon says that he is hopeful in gaining support from the local city councils, after the StanCOG policy board approved an expenditure plan that specifies what the transportation tax would pay for, if approved.
The expenditure plan, approved by StanCOG in January, would see 47 percent of the funds allocated to highways and corridors of regional significance, another 47 percent to local road maintenance, and the remaining 6 percent to alternative modes. Of that 6 percent dedicated to alternative modes of transportation, 80 percent is allocated for rail, 15 percent for mobility management for seniors and the disabled, and five percent to bicycle and pedestrian projects.
But whether or not Turlock will support StanCOG's efforts this time around is under contention, as Councilmember Forrest White, who sits as the Turlock representative on the StanCOG Policy Board, threatened to withdraw Turlock's support for the tax during an October meeting after the board opted to dismiss allocating funds for Turlock's Fulkerth/Highway 99 Interchange project. Although the project had been placed as one of the top three projects considered for funds from the State Transportation Improvement Program, StanCOG staff recommended the allocation of state funds go to Modesto's State Route 132 project, and the widening of McHenry Avenue.
Arguing that StanCOG has never prioritized projects south of Modesto, White said that the City of Turlock would move forward on the project on their own, as he believed it was clear that StanCOG was uninterested in helping Turlock. As a result, White threatened that he would urge the Turlock City Council members to withdraw any future support for a countywide transportation tax - a maneuver that would severely decrease the chances of such a tax ever passing.
Regardless of White's threats, however, the majority of the Council has agreed that a sales tax approach would make a meaningful difference in the condition of the roads by generating a sufficient amount of funding to make improvements. But many have debated whether or not the City should support a countywide tax, or propose a citywide tax that would ensure all generated funds would stay directly in Turlock.
On Tuesday, as Yamzon comes to the council meeting to discuss the countywide tax approach, council members will decide whether or not they support the expenditure plan set forth by StanCOG, and if they believe the countywide tax measure should be placed on the November ballot.
According to city staff, the transportation measure is estimated to generate $970 million over the next 25 years to address transportation needs throughout Stanislaus County. As part of the local street and road programs, Turlock is given the second largest sales tax share, with an allocated $68 million, or nearly 15 percent of the total. The largest share, at 38 percent, would be allocated to the City of Modesto, for approximately $175 million.
Although the council could choose to not support the countywide tax measure, city staff is recommending they do, as it is imperative for all of the nine cities in Stanislaus to support the proposed sales tax in order to get it on the November ballot.
On Tuesday, the City Council is also expected to:
• Appoint community and council members to the Community Development Block Grant Committee, who will make recommendations on which local nonprofit organizations will receive HUD grant funding for community services;
• Receive information on the Hilmar Cheese Processing Plant to be located in Turlock;
• Be given an update on Vida-Vital, and matters related to downtown food trucks;
• Review the progress of Councilmembers Amy Bublak and Steven Nascimento's efforts on discussing limitations on campaign contributions for council members;
• Approve an agreement with the San Jose Earthquakes for practice field use, and authorizing the City of Turlock to be a designated ticket distribution point and marketing source for Premiere Development League soccer games;
• Amend the City of Turlock Fiscal year 2013-14 General and Non General Fund Budgets; and
• Recognize Feb. 24-28 as Go Green Week in the City of Turlock.
The City Council meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on Tuesday at City Hall, located at 156 S. Broadway.





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