Town seeks feedback concerning road tax
Providing road maintenance for the town could come in the form of a half-cent sales tax.
Truckee’s town council discussed leaving the tax up to voters in November, at its regular meeting June 5. Although councilmembers did not render a decision, they did reschedule the road tax on the June 19 agenda to allow more time for community members to offer input.
The tax 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.
Town Manager Steve Wright said the committee thought the 32-mile stretch of roads served Truckee’s primary neighborhoods and could be supported by both town residents and visiting second homeowners who use the main traffic arteries.
Tax collections would be placed in a trust fund, not to be used for general fund expenditures, that was made possible through state legislation passed a few years ago, Wright said.
“Ultimately, the committee felt that all of the people (including visitors) utilize these backbone roads in Truckee, therefore there was a logical nexus between the half-cent sales tax and these particular road segments,” Wright said.
With the passing of Prop. 218 last November, new taxes or special assessments require approval by two-thirds majority. If approved by the voters, the tax will be restricted to road maintenance and reconstruction.
“Pavement standards provide for a reconstruction effort on the roads, then there is a provision five years out for maintenance and in 10 years there is an overlay project to continue to have the backbone in quality shape for the community,” he said.
Wright said the committee recommended two methods of using the funds – a pay-as-you-go method and a bond issue – should the tax be approved by Truckee voters. Based on statistics for this year, Truckee’s one-cent sales tax generates $1.62 million, while the proposed tax will generate $810,000.
Using the pay-as-you-go method, town road crews can use the $810,000 to begin reconstruction, overlay and maintenance projects along the backbone system. As these projects are completed, Wright said tax monies might be
freed up for use on other town roads.
Mayor Bob Drake disagreed with the bond issue method saying, “If the economy really went sour, then the taxpayers would have to make the bond payments. With the pay-as-you-go option, you only spend what you’ve got.”
Wright also cited several pending issues regarding the sales tax idea, including if tax monies can be freed up as the 32-mile system is repaired, whether the tax only comes from the pockets of community businesses, if a sunset clause – a time limit for the tax – should be included as a ballot provision and which month to hold the election.
Councilmember Steve Carpenter said current roadwork on Truckee streets might give town residents the impression that road maintenance is adequately funded and that a tax is not needed.
“The reason for all the roadwork now is we received federal money from the floods,” Drake said.
Councilman Don McCormack said important features of the tax include ongoing funding for roads, the two-thirds voter approval and a sunset clause. He also said the $350,000 to $500,000 budgeted each year for road maintenance “isn’t going to scratch the town’s road problem.”
Truckee’s town council directed staff to place the road tax issue on the June 19 meeting agenda and begin preparing draft ballot language to present at that meeting.
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