Proposed road tax discussed at chamber lunch
Truckee voters will decide April 14 whether to increase the town’s sales tax by a half cent to fund repairs to 32 miles of the town’s major roads. Last week a group of about 25 business leaders met at a luncheon to discuss the pros and cons of the proposed tax known as Measure A.
Although the Truckee Donner Chamber of Commerce has already endorsed the measure, chamber president Rachelle Pellissier said she organized the luncheon so those in attendance could hear from people on both sides of the issue.
Steve Gross of Porter Simon and past town council member Steve Carpenter spoke in favor of the measure and former Truckee mayor Breeze Cross spoke in opposition.
Gross got things started by giving audience members a brief history of the road tax issue, explaining that he had been a member of the road committee that developed the Measure D road tax proposal a few years ago and put it before voters. Measure D, which called for an increase in parcel taxes, failed by about 57 votes, he said.
“The first plan covered all the roads in Truckee and it failed by only 57 votes, so my first thought was ‘let’s try again,'” he said. “Then I realized the voters told us no and we need to come up with something new. We did, and it’s called Measure A.”
Carpenter explained that the tax would generate about $800,000 a year which would be used to repair the major roadways in Truckee, including Alder Creek, Donner Pass Road, Donner Lake Road, Martis Valley Road, Glenshire Drive, Rainbow Drive, Northwoods Boulevard and main roads in the downtown area.
Although the extra money could, by law, only be used for the specified roads, Carpenter explained that the revenue currently being used to maintain the main roads would be freed up and could be used for the maintenance of the town’s secondary roads. It
wouldn’t, however, solve all of the town’s road problems, he said.
“We have to be clear, this is not the whole fix,” he said. “But our roads are deteriorating at a million or so dollars a year and if we delay, we’re going back $1 million a year and there will be a reckoning day.”
Carpenter also explained that the tax has a sunset clause and it would expire at the end of 12 years.
In an attempt to break the issue down a bit, Carpenter explained that a family which spends $500 a month locally on household items would pay only about $30 per year more than they currently pay.
Cross, who owns Truckee Tahoe Lumber, had another take on the issue. He explained that he is opposed to the tax, but not for the reason most people might think.
“Yes, it will have an impact on my business. We are probably the biggest contributor of sales tax in the community and I’ve wrestled with that,” he said. “But I’ve resolved that. As a business person I believe I have a responsibility to the community.”
What he doesn’t like about the plan is the fact that it is only a temporary solution which could get in the way of a final solution, he said.
When the town incorporated five years ago, Cross said, it inherited a $40 million road problem.
“At $800,000 a year you’re not going to fix the problem,” he said.
Cross said he believes the town should put a parcel tax back before the voters, along with a better explanation of how it would work.
“When we asked the people to vote on the measure they didn’t understand so they just said no,” he said. “There’s a right and a wrong way to run a political campaign and we did it wrong.”
Cross added that he believes Measure A would only be the first step toward solving the town’s road problems and could only lead to town officials asking for more money in the future, probably in the form of property tax.
“The voters will say that they already gave you a half cent and you said it would fix it. It’s a credibility issue,” he said. “Don’t go to the voters with half a solution that may step on the long-term solution.”
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