Road Tax Moves Forward, Without Bus Subsidy

David Fransen/

The City of Turlock will move ahead with plans to place a road tax on the November ballot, but without a controversial clause which would have diverted some revenues to the city’s bus system.

Now, 100 percent of the tax’s revenues would be devoted exclusively to road repairs.

The proposed half-cent sales tax would generate about $5.6 million in annual revenues, or $39.2 million over the seven-year life of the tax. Each quadrant of Turlock would see some repairs each year, following an expenditure plan available here.

“It doesn’t mix up transit into it,” Councilmember Forrest White said. “We can deal with transit on a separate basis when the issue comes up.”

The initially-proposed road tax would have devoted 2 percent of revenues to the City of Turlock’s bus system. Revenues from the city’s bus system are expected to fall short of costs in coming years.

But regardless of needs, people want to fix roads, not help the bus system, councilmembers said.

“I don’t think it’s what the people of Turlock have supported,” Councilmember Steven Nascimento said.

With the bus funding removed, the City of Turlock will need to find roughly $60,000 per year from another source.

A 4-1 majority of council approved of moving forward with the tax. Councilmember Amy Bublak cast the lone no vote, arguing that residents are facing rising costs in other areas and stating she did not support a new tax.

But the time is now to move forward, said Mayor John Lazar. He said citizens should have the opportunity to “take care of our own,” improving public safety, reducing vehicle damage, and allowing visitors to contribute to road repairs via sales tax revenues.

Though business groups are generally opposed to new taxes, the Turlock Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors has voiced its support for the measure, Chamber CEO Sharon Silva said.

“We have to look at these roads, not only from the perspective of our citizens who live here, but also from an economic development view,” Silva said. “And they have to be taken care of.”

The Turlock City Council will cast a second, final vote on the road tax on June 10. The final decision on the road tax’s future will await voters on the Nov. 4 ballot. Two-thirds of voters must approve the measure for it to be approved.

It will cost roughly $30,000 to place the measure on the November ballot, Turlock City Manager Roy Wasden said.

The Turlock City Council is also likely to put a little “skin in the game,” so to speak, by investing General Fund dollars into road maintenance for the first time.

As part of the proposed City of Turlock 2014-2015 budget, the city would begin setting aside $50,000 each year in matching funds for road maintenance. The figure would roughly correspond to the City of Turlock’s share of the half-cent sales tax, were it an average Turlock household.

The expenditure would be built into the City of Turlock’s annual budget going forward. At least three councilmembers, Bill DeHart, White, and Nascimento, are all in favor of budgeting General Fund dollars for road repairs regardless of the outcome of November’s election.

“I think it’s pretty clear the people of Turlock want us to continue to move forward with fixing our roadways,” Nascimento said.

Bublak was opposed to making a decision on the expenditure now. She said the Turlock City Council should wait to see the outcome of the November election.

“We should know what the people want before we go forward with it,” Bublak said.

The Turlock City Council will make a final decision on funding road repairs with General Fund dollars at an upcoming meeting. 

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