Placer Co. half-cent sales tax increase headed for Nov. ballot
August 12, 2016
TAHOE CITY, Calif. — Placer County voters will decide Nov. 8 on whether or not to approve a half-cent sales tax increase proposed in Measure M to fund transportation and infrastructure initiatives.
The measure is written to mainly for residents of eastern Placer County, but also includes plans for the annual distribution of over $1 million to North Lake Tahoe transit improvements.
"I don't know what's bad about it other than you have to pay a higher tax," said North Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce Director of Community Partnership and Planning Ron Treabess.
Although Measure M is a county-wide tax-increase, tax revenue generated in Lake Tahoe would remain in Lake Tahoe, Treabess said.
The measure requires a two-thirds majority vote to pass. If it does, North Lake Tahoe would receive 3% of the tax revenue, which would go into effect on Apr. 1, 2017, and remain in place for 30 years.
'PUT A DENT IN IT'
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While it is unknown at this time exactly how much money the tax increase will generate, Treabess said estimates put it at around $1.6 million annually for North Tahoe alone.
According to the Placer County Transportation Agency's draft expenditure plan, this would put a total of $48 million for transit planning in Tahoe City, Kings Beach, Carnelian Bay, Squaw Valley, Martis Valley, Northstar, Alpine Meadows and other communities.
Transit funding doesn't just mean more buses and greater frequency of rides. The funding would also include improvements to local roads, the expansion and maintenance of bike and pedestrian trails as well as improved safety measures like signs and crosswalks.
"It's not going to be the total amount of money we need," said Treabess, "But it'll put a dent in it."
He said that locally, revenue from Transient Occupancy Tax helps fund transit solutions in Tahoe, but it isn't enough.
"When we look at what we're putting into transit, we're still short somewhere around $2.7 million," he said.
Treabess said that Measure M would help lessen that deficit, but local officials are still going to need to figure out where they'll come up with the rest of the money for the trails and transit system they envision.
"It's not paying for the whole thing," he said. "We're still not off the hook."
Measure M would provide about 44.8 percent of the total revenue to major highways and roads in eastern Placer County.
Thirty percent would go to local and rural county roads, 11.9 percent would go toward rail and transit initiatives, and about 4.8 percent would go toward bike and pedestrian programs. Three percent would go to the Lake Tahoe area.
Placer County, not unlike many others in California, has relied heavily on gas tax revenue in the past. That revenue is shrinking as cars become more fuel-efficient, and communities up and down the state are looking for other ways to pay for transit.
In fact, the California Transportation Commission has called the situation a "Transportation Funding Crisis" on its website, and announced significant cutbacks in road and transit projects over the next five years.
The Sacramento Bee recently reported that Placer County is one of a dozen California counties trying to resolve their transit funding dilemmas by adding a county sales tax increase to the November ballot.
According to Placer County, the deadline for residents to file arguments for or against Measure M (or other measures) is 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 12.
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