Margaret Moran

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January 14, 2014
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Truckee eying June primary for trails tax measure

TRUCKEE, Calif. — Leeds Davis is not one for tax increases, but he’s willing to make an exception for Truckee’s trails.

“The trails are a high point of the lifestyle here,” said Davis, a full-time Tahoe Donner resident and trail user, on Wednesday. “… I am all for this revenue raising effort.”

Others, however, aren’t so sure.

“Most of the trails show that the people (who) are designing them don’t know; they don’t get it,” said Stephen Harris, a Truckee resident and trail user. “I would propose not only putting a hold on this tax proposal, but putting a hold on the entire trails construction until you get serious about getting people in here with expertise in the subject.”

The town of Truckee is considering for the June primary election a quarter-cent, 10-year sales tax measure that would generate about $1 million annually toward construction and maintenance of separate paved and earthen trails.

Currently, the town has a sales tax of 8.125 percent, which is higher than Nevada County (7.625 percent) and Placer County (7.5 percent), and lower than the state average (8.38 percent). If the trails measure is approved, Truckee’s sales tax would grow to 8.375 percent.

To pass, it must garner two-thirds majority in an election — similar to the super majority needed in past Truckee ballots, such as the town’s Measure V sales tax for roadway maintenance.

According to a poll by TBWB Strategies, support is at the cusp. The San Francisco-based consulting firm found that 67 percent of 564 registered Truckee voters surveyed last fall would vote in favor.

“Being bluntly honest here, this is no slam dunk, right? But there’s an opportunity,” said Charles Heath, a partner with TBWB Strategies, at a Tuesday workshop attended by roughly 45 people, including town staff and council members.

Historically, the town has funded construction of its 15 miles of completed separate paved trails with a multi-pronged approach — developer funding, grant funds, special local funds and general funds — to the tune of $9.43 million, said Dan Wilkins, public works director and engineer for the town.

Despite recent success with this approach — particularly with securing grants — town staff doesn’t believe it’s a sustainable, long-term method to fund trails.

Additionally, maintenance costs have been low due to Truckee’s trails being relatively new — the oldest paved trail was built in 1998 — according to the town. However, as they get older and more are constructed, those costs will rise.

Based on the Truckee Trails and Bikeways Master Plan, the town estimates $15.05 million in unfunded construction and maintenance costs for paved and earthen trails over a 10-year period.

“When cities and towns like Truckee identify a specific unfunded need of this nature and start looking at the available sources of funds, they, frankly, are few and far between,” Heath said.

Truckee Town Council could vote to pursue the ballot measure at its Tuesday, Jan. 14, meeting, in consideration for the June 3 primary election.

If approved, ballot language will need to be written before council’s Jan. 28 meeting, as the town must OK it to meet a Jan. 29 deadline with the Nevada County Registrar of Voters for the June primary.

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Sierra Sun Updated Jan 9, 2014 05:41PM Published Jan 14, 2014 04:52PM Copyright 2014 Sierra Sun. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.