Though the Stanislaus County Council of Governments abandoned plans to place a countywide road tax on the November ballot, momentum is growing among Turlock City Councilmembers to consider going alone.
Two Turlock City Councilmembers have now publicly stated support for a half-cent sales tax, with all proceeds dedicated to improving Turlock’s streets.
“I would like to have that put back on our agenda,” Turlock City Councilmember Forrest White said Tuesday.
StanCOG, the regional transportation planning agency, dropped the idea of a countywide tax last week after polls showed it was unlikely to succeed.
But Turlockers alone would have passed the road tax. 68 percent of Turlockers polled were in favor of the measure.
“There was a strong response this was a high priority for our area,” White said.
White also noted that a Turlock-specific road tax would go solely to fixing Turlock’s streets and roads. The countywide proposal would have diverted more than half of the revenues to fund three new cross-county highways and expanded rail service – two expenditures which earned a mixed reaction.
A half-cent sales tax would raise about $5 million annually. That amount alone would allow Turlock to maintain streets at their current levels, but make no improvements; past studies suggested that Turlock would need to spend $11.4 million per year for the next 20 years to improve its streets to a “good” level.
However, should Turlockers opt to tax themselves the city would suddenly have access to millions in previously unavailable state and federal road funds. Those grants could bring Turlock closer to fully funding local roads.
Turlock Mayor John Lazar directed Turlock City Manager Roy Wasden to “take care of” putting a road tax discussion on a future Turlock City Council agenda.
Lazar has previously spoken in favor of a Turlock-specific road tax. He made the tax a focal point of his 2013 State of the City address, and reiterated his support for the measure during Thursday’s Turlock Government Night.
"We cannot wait any longer,” Lazar said. “Our roads and streets in this town are in disrepair."