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County to conduct survey to determine public interest in road tax
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The feasibility of placing a countywide road tax on the 2016 ballot is being investigated as the Stanislaus County of Governments approved spending $50,000 to conduct a survey to gauge the public's response to the idea.

The Stanislaus Council of Governments Policy Board, which is comprised of 16 elected officials from county agencies, convened on May 20 to discuss the prospect of administering the survey. This is not the first time that the board has considered such measures, as the results of a countywide poll in 2014 precipitated the county's decision to not pursue a countywide tax in 2014, an initiative that failed by a narrow margin in both 2006 and 2008 general elections.

According to a policy board report, StanCOG and its consultant Flint Strategies has held a series of meetings with city managers and staff of Stanislaus communities to discuss transportation projects in each jurisdiction. Focus groups will also be held in the next month to further vet the projects, following which "StanCOG will develop a survey instrument to gauge public support for a potential 1/2 cent sales tax to support transportation investments in the Stanislaus County. The survey will be conducted countywide but will also include specific questions for each jurisdiction based on the results of the focus groups."

A total of $50,000 has been appropriated for outreach efforts and the voter survey.

A half-cent road tax in Turlock also narrowly failed to pass in the 2014 election, meaning the deteriorating quality of local roads is a concern for both Turlock and county residents. Turlock Mayor Gary Soiseth, who serves on StanCOG and voted in favor of administering the survey, said regional cooperation in regards to transportation has been a priority for him.

"It is crucial for Stanislaus to become a 'self-help' county to better leverage state transportation dollars. This survey will give StanCOG the ability to create a road investment proposal that will adequately fix both our regional and local roads," said Soiseth.

 Soiseth did note that if the county is to move forward with a tax, his goal is to ensure that the measures benefits not only the county but also Turlock.