Sales tax eyed for roads; Council puts issue on ballot for April 1998 | SierraSun.com
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Sales tax eyed for roads; Council puts issue on ballot for April 1998

JOHN A. BAYLESS

The Truckee Town Council decided to take the half-cent sales tax increase for road maintenance before voters in April.

If approved, the half-cent increase will be used to maintain and upgrade the “backbone” roads of the community. It would be used as the funding mechanism for a defined 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 area.

Money raised by the half-cent sales tax would go to a special fund, and could only be used to maintain the community’s roads. Normally towns can only direct sales tax revenue to the general fund, but special legislation spearheaded by Sen. Tim Leslie and Assemblyman Bernie Richter allowed the Town of Truckee to dedicate the tax specifically to road maintenance.

A funding system for road maintenance has been discussed by the town council since shortly after

incorporation. A study by an outside consultant in 1994 resulted in a proposal that the town establish an assessment district, and charge a per-parcel annual fee to property owners for road maintenance.

“At that time the council held public hearings on the assessment district,” Town Manager Steve Wright explained. “The public told the council that the numbers were too high and asked them to review the matter.”

A citizens committee was then created to re-evaluate the road projects and possible means of financing them. The committee returned to the council with a recommendation of a smaller per-parcel charge and a half-cent sales tax increase, with the intent of funding maintenance for all of the roads in the town limits.

“The council felt public input was necessary at that time and held an advisory election on the assessment district,” Wright said. “The voter response was ‘No,’ on the per parcel charge, by about 50 votes. Following that, the subsequent town council created a new road committee with a broader base, which came up with the current recommendation.”

The half-cent sales tax increase now proposed only addresses the maintenance and upgrade needs of the major roads in Truckee’s town limits, and does not include funding for repairs to residential roads and side streets or snow removal.

‘This is just a partial solution to our problem,” Councilman Don McCormack said in the Dec. 9 meeting. “It gets the backbone roads, and does it without a parcel charge.”

Resident Greg Hendrickson voiced his support for the measure.

“It’s appropriate that residents are not hit with parcel charges,” Hendrickson said. “Property owners are not the only ones driving on the roads.”

The sales tax has a 12-year sunset clause, after which voters could decide on whether the tax should continue.

Council members differed in their opinions of when the issue should be brought before voters.

In April, the sales tax increase will share the ballot with a planned Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District bond issue. In June, it would have shared the ballot with a regular primary election and a Library Committee sales tax proposal.

Josh Susman, Maia Schneider and McCormack supported an April ballot, while Bob Drake supported including the measure in the June ballot. Ron Florian was absent.

“I’m only opposed because I’m opposed to special elections,” Drake said. He supported the June ballot because it would cost voters less money, as it will be a regular election and there are more issues on it. The cost of the election is divided among the parties who have issues on the ballot.


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