After months of talking, the Turlock City Council will take action on a controversial proposed road tax this Tuesday.
The idea of a road tax was first introduced by Mayor John Lazar at his State of the City address in February.
“For too long we have waited for some county, state or federal initiative to improve our transportation systems,” Lazar said “… I would like to explore the idea of placing some type of special road maintenance measure on the Turlock ballot for residents to give us the tools to fix our streets.”
The Turlock City Council held meetings at Dutcher Middle School, Westside Ministries, the Turlock Senior Center, and Pitman High School to solicit public feedback about a tax before making any decisions. The meetings stretched from April to June.
“Attendance by the community was slight with an average of approximately 15 attendees at each meeting,” a staff report reads.
Feedback was mixed. Some were vehemently opposed to any new taxes, but the majority of those in attendance said the roads need to be fixed, despite the costs.
Based on that feedback, Turlock staff believes residents would support a half-cent sales tax, dedicated exclusively to road projects. Two-thirds of voters would be required to approve such a tax, which would likely have a five-year lifespan.
The tax would generate about $5 million annually – half of the $10 million Turlock would need to spend just to maintain roads at their current state. But Turlock can leverage that money to obtain state grants, available only to self-taxing “self-help” cities, to have significantly more impact, staff said.
Should council direct city staff to pursue a tax initiative, it would likely be placed on the November ballot. Turlock has until Aug. 9 to file the tax measure with the county.
On Tuesday, the Turlock City Council is also expected to:
• Review the process for distributing residential street closure permits, which are currently free.
However, Turlock Municipal Code requires applicants to obtain $1 million in liability insurance at a cost of roughly $150. Staff became aware of this requirement on June 17 and began enforcing the policy, resulting in a drastic reduction in neighborhood street closures for the Fourth of July.
Though no action is scheduled to occur on the matter, councilmembers will discuss whether the city should begin to charge a permit fee, estimated at $40, and/or continue to require liability insurance.
• Begin a trial program to divert 90 percent of Turlock's solid waste to the Merced County Regional Waste Management Authority. Dumping at the Merced facility costs only $18 per ton, far less than the Stanislaus County's Waste to Energy facility's cost of $39 per ton.
• Issue proclamations in honor of Parks and Recreation Month and Joe Sheley, the new President of California State University, Stanislaus.
• Hear a monthly staff update on capital projects and building activity.
• Begin the process to repeal a section of Turlock Municipal Code which addresses parking meters. Turlock has no parking meters and does not expect to install any, rendering the code useless.
• Renew the Turlock Downtown Property Owners Association's Property and Business Improvement District. The district was formed in 1998, and was renewed in 2003 for a 10 year term. This renewal will occur only if a majority of downtown property owners are in favor.
• Adopt a new comprehensive safety program for City of Turlock employees.
• In closed session, conduct an annual performance review of City Attorney Phaedra Norton and conference with labor negotiators representing all city employee groups.
The Turlock City Council is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Yosemite Room of Turlock City Hall, 156 S. Broadway.