Only two chances remain to speak at public forums organized by the Turlock City Council to receive feedback on a proposed road tax and other critical issues.
The next forum on critical issues will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Turlock Senior Citizens Center.
The first two meetings on critical issues were marked by poor attendance. Fewer than 10 people attended a April 30 meeting at Dutcher Middle School. Roughly the same number attended a May 9 meeting at Westside Ministries.
“The best thing we can do is to get a lot of people to give us a lot of information,” Turlock City Councilman Forrest White said at the April 30 meeting. “The more input we have, the better.”
The meetings were ostensibly planned to discuss a potential road tax, which could be placed on the November ballot. Voters would be asked to approve either a sales tax or a property tax, with all proceeds dedicated to improving Turlock roads.
The tax would likely amount to either a half-cent sales tax, raising $5 million annually, or a approximately $402 per parcel property tax, raising $8 million annually. Turlock currently spends about $2 million on roads each year, and would need to spend $10 million per year simply to prevent conditions from worsening – not to improve the overall condition of roadways.
City staff say Turlock can't afford to spend any more, as the city receives only a small share of the tax revenue collected here; of $215 million in property, sales, and state income taxes collected in Turlock last year, the city received only $13 million. A new revenue source – a tax – would be the only answer to improving roads.
That new tax would also qualify Turlock as a a “self-help” city in California's eyes, opening up millions more in matching state funds. That state road funding is currently unavailable to Turlock, as it is dedicated to “self-help” cities where residents tax themselves for roads.
Feedback on any tax has been mixed.
At the April 30 meeting, Turlocker Dewey Rowe supported a sales tax, which he said would likely cost Turlockers less than the car repairs forced by bumpy roads.
“I think this is the way to go,” Rowe said. “You can assess the property owners, but everybody uses to streets, even out in the county. If you're going to use the streets, you should pay for them.”
Former Turlock councilmember Kurt Spycher felt differently.
“I'm not in favor of new taxes,” Spycher said. “We're already paying the taxes.
“Our problem is in Sacramento and D.C. And really, in my opinion, our efforts should be placed in holding our elected officials responsible.”
Talk at the meetings hasn't focused solely on road taxes. Each meeting begins with an overview of every city department, and a walk-through of the city's finances.
At the May 9 Westside Ministries meeting, there was essentially no discussion of the tax. Instead, attendees focused on issues critical to their own neighborhood – Columbia Park, the new Public Safety Facility, Turlock Police services, water usage, and voting for Turlock City Councilmembers by district.
After Thursday's meeting, Turlockers will have just one more chance to comment on a road tax or other issues. That final meeting will be held at 7 p.m. June 13, at Pitman High School.