Road tax vote postponed; Council concerned about placing issue on same ballot with MAPF
Town residents won’t get a chance to vote on a proposed sales tax for road maintenance this year – during the July 24 special meeting councilmembers failed to pass a resolution placing the item on the next election ballot in November.
Town Engineer Jon Lander said Truckee’s road committee decided the half-cent sales tax to fund a 32-mile section of “backbone” roads was the best mechanism to help alleviate the town’s deteriorating road system.
“The question tonight is do you feel confident enough to proceed?” Lander said.
Councilmembers expressed concern over placing the controversial issue on the November ballot opposite the Mountain Area Preservation Foundation’s initiative to amend Truckee’s general plan.
More time needed
Specifically, the council, with Mayor Bob Drake and Councilmember Steve Carpenter absent, agreed four months until November was not a long enough time period to garner support to pass the measure.
Councilman Ron Florian said the community is focusing on the MAPF initiative, and placing the sales tax on the same ballot would only serve to confuse voters.
“There is too much talk about the initiative. My feeling is November is not the right time,” Florian said. “We don’t
have the right players out there behind it.”
Agreeing with Florian was Councilman Josh Susman, who said, “We can’t afford to rush this and not do it right. I would also choose to defer this until an unknown date.”
Acting-Mayor Don McCormack said, “I cannot support putting something on the ballot I think has no chance of passing.”
Community Development Director Tony Lashbrook said full-time town residents would pay about $48 per year if the sales tax were passed, accounting for roughly a $218,000 deposit annually in the road maintenance fund.
In addition, another $114,000 would be generated by eastern county residents not living in town limits. Coupled with town residents, area permanent residents would contribute about $332,000 each year – about 42 percent of the fund’s yearly estimated balance of $810,000, Lashbrook said.
Second homeowners were expected to pay $24.30 each year if the sales tax measure passed, which would total $244,000 – a $122,000 split from homes in town limits and those lying outside. The second homeowner portion of the annual balance is about 30 percent.
Finally, tourists – people not owning property in the area but just passing through – would account for about $235,000, or 29 percent, of the proposed sales tax.
“Based on assumptions of the general plan, (that’s) who is paying,” Lashbrook said.
The proposed road tax – an issue that has been bouncing around town hall for more than two months – would act as a funding mechanism for a 32-mile road system, including Alder Creek, Donner Pass, Donner Lake and Martis Valley roads; Glenshire Drive; Northwoods Boulevard; and main roads in the downtown commercial core, that Truckee’s Road Committee designated as the town’s backbone.
Committee members thought the 32-mile stretch of roads served Truckee’s primary neighborhoods and could be supported by both town residents and visiting second homeowners using the main traffic arteries.
Tax collections would be placed in a trust fund, not to be used for general fund expenditures.
The resolution before councilmembers included the designated roads list, a provision calling for exclusive funding for those roads and a sunset clause requiring tax collection end after 12 years unless resubmitted to the voters for an additional time period.
Councilman Steve Carpenter, who is a three-year road committee member, said he believed November was not the right time to bring the road maintenance issue before voters. He said placing the measure opposite the MAPF initiative could keep both issues from getting adequate voter attention.
“There were some real risks with November,” Carpenter said. “I wanted to get (the resolution) adopted and approved but that was not going to happen. I felt it should not be November.”
Truckee Road Committee member John Bailey said he said he would have liked to have seen the sales tax go before voters in November.
“It is a shame that it’s not on the ballot,” Bailey said, adding there is no guarantee other elections won’t include controversial issues. “The possibility of other issues being on future ballots is risky.”
Although the half-cent tax will not be on the November ballot, Lashbrook said it doesn’t mean the item has been tabled. Councilmembers will continue to discuss the road maintenance proposal and decide on a future vote date.
“It was not tabled,” Lashbrook said. “Councilmembers just decided not to put it on this (November) ballot.”
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