Voters will have the opportunity to adopt Measure B, a one-half of one percent local road sales tax in Turlock, with a two-thirds majority in the pending General Election on Nov. 4.
Measure B was put on the ballot by the current City Council in early June in a 4-1 vote with Councilmember Amy Bublak as the dissenting vote. According to City Manager Roy Wasden, the cost to put it on the ballot was estimated at $30,000.
The purpose of the proposed road tax is construction, reconstruction, replacement, repair and/or maintenance of existing Turlock streets, sidewalks, curbs, gutters, ramps, pedestrian/bicycle improvements, including Americans with Disabilities Act improvements, and necessary pavement markings.
Should 66.7 percent of voters approve the new tax, the City Finance Department estimates that the measure would raise an additional $39 million dollars over the seven year life of the tax.
Supporters of the tax explain it as an additional 50 cents on every $100 of taxable goods; additionally they note that city residents would not be the only ones to absorb the fees as out of town shoppers would contribute. It is estimated that annually, $5.6 million would be raised from the new tax revenue.
Despite the fact that the gas tax already in place is designated for roads, which on the federal level, does have the potential to go up, the City currently is only putting $50,000 toward roads in the General Fund, but previously it has not provided funding for roads in several years.
If passed, the tax would begin collection April 1, 2015 and would automatically terminate seven years after, or upon the adoption of a new countywide transportation sales tax measure.
Many Turlock residents would argue the need for road repairs and attest to the fact that road are in need of repair, conversely, the tax, with many nuances and uncertainties, and recent occurrences is seen by some as less than best practice.
Hypothetically, should Stanislaus County propose and pass a transportation sales tax in 2016, there is no guarantee to Turlock voters that the rest of the roads included in the list scheduled to be fixed past 2016 would, in fact, be repaired. To be clear, toward the end of the list, many roads are not even guaranteed funding, and would be done as funds become available.
Candidates running for City Council have a variety of views. At a recent candidate forum, Sergio Alvarado stated his blatant opposition to the tax, Matthew Jacob and Forrest White, who sits on the Citizens for Yes on Measure B committee, stated their support, and Bill DeHart and Donald Babadalir both expressed that voters should be left to make the decision.
Mike Brem, candidate for Mayor, has expressed his strong support for the Measure and has garnered much public support because of it.
Both the Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee (PAC) — Turlock Action for Business (TAB) — and The Modesto Bee editorial board have endorsed Brem because of his strong support of the road tax.
Brem addressed the concern of many stating that a guarantee from the County that stating Turlock roads would be fixed was not possible because a Countywide tax is not currently on the table.
Opponent, Gary Soiseth, stated that he is not the anti-B candidate, but rather needs a guarantee that city taxpayers will receive what they are promised should they approve it; upon that guarantee, he expressed that he is “more than willing to support the initiative.”
Should the incoming Mayor and potentially new incoming Council deem it necessary, they have the option to amend or repeal the tax by a two-thirds vote of the Council but would not have the option to increase or extend the rate of the tax without voter approval.
Other groups have created stances both for and against the half-cent road tax.
The Citizens for Yes on Measure B, in which Councilmember White and Mayor Lazar sit on the advising committee, and Councilmember Steven Nascimento sits on the steering committee, has filed in support of the road tax.
The committee has raised $26,020 in total contributions as of Sept. 30. Donors include Teichert Construction who has done several repaving projects in Turlock recently. They were awarded the Monte Vista Avenue repaving project in September 2013, as well as several other repaving projects.
Citizens for Yes on Measure B have also been in recent news for an insert placed in the City's September utility bill. City Manager Roy Wasden approved the inserts, which were prepared by the committee before they were sent out, but were not identified as campaign material by the committee.
The TAB PAC has also come out in support of the tax, despite business groups typically being against new taxes, due to Turlock’s dire need for road repairs.
A second group, which has not formally filed in opposition of the tax, has created a Facebook page. It is unknown who is behind the opposition group.
For those who remain undecided, or those interested in reading what Measure B entails, the full text of the tax is now available online on the City of Turlock’s website.
No matter the stance, Turlock voters will take to the polls on Nov. 4 to decide how Turlock roads will be fix.