County transportation panel to consider funding measure

Sales tax increase could go on November ballot
By: Steve Archer, Reporter
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Lincoln City Councilman Stan Nader said last week he would support a proposed half-cent sales tax increase to fund transportation improvements in Placer County.

Nader, a Placer County Transportation Planning Agency (PCTPA) board member, made his comments at the panel’s February meeting. The planning agency meets monthly.

“We need to put ourselves at a competitive advantage as far as neighboring counties go,” Nader said. “We are surrounded by counties with a half-cent sales tax for transportation funding.”

A poll, commissioned by the Placer County Transportation Planning Agency, gauging public support for a half-cent sales tax increase indicates low levels of awareness of the measure in the eastern part of the county, according to a report made at the Feb. 24 meeting. Specifically, public outreach in the eastern part of Placer County may be needed before the agency decides to endorse the sales tax increase to fund streets and roads.

Another key finding from the poll showed county-wide support for the proposed sales tax increase at 63 percent and support in Lincoln at 67 percent. The measure would require a two-thirds vote to pass in the November General Election.

According to a transportation planning agency staff report, a half-cent sales tax increase could raise $1.6 billion over 30 years. A key element to the proposed measure’s spending plan is a requirement that 30 percent of the funds raised be allocated to the cities for local road rehabilitation and maintenance.

Roseville City Councilwoman Susan Rohan, the board’s chairwoman, said the proposed measure would allow greater local control of funding streets and roads projects.

“We know we have a transportation problem in Placer County,” Rohan said. “This is one viable way to address the problem.”

Nader agreed.

“There is no question it is going to get worse,” Nader said. “Unless something changes, I will support (the proposed ballot measure).”

The agency’s board of directors received the poll results at its monthly meeting Feb. 24 in Auburn. The board will decide in April whether to support a sales tax increase. A ballot measure raising the sales tax would need to be approved by the Placer County Board of Supervisors before being placed on the ballot.

Placer County Supervisor Jim Holmes, a member of the Placer County Transportation Planning Agency board, said he was encouraged by the results of the poll but voters need to understand the necessity of the measure.

“We’ve moved the needle slightly, in a positive way,” Holmes said. “We need to define what each jurisdiction will get out of this.”

Kurt Below, of Fairbank Maslin, presented the poll’s findings to the Placer County Transportation Planning Agency board. Below said the cities of Lincoln, Roseville and Rocklin showed the most support – with numbers as high as 70 percent in favor – while the unincorporated area of the county showed less than 50 percent in favor. Below was joined by Jeff Flint of FSB Core Strategies.

“You will need to convince voters from Auburn and east to support the measure,” Flint said. “That’s the number one problem to address.”

Nader said the group “needs to work harder on agency awareness.”

“Auburn and District 5 are the weak points,” Nader said. “That’s where we need to focus outreach.”

The Placer County Transportation Planning Agency recently received a $150,000 grant from the United Auburn Indian Communities for public outreach.

Celia McAdam, the Placer County Transportation Planning Agency’s executive director, said she would return to the board in April after more community outreach.

“Then we will go to each of the City Councils for support,” McAdam said. “Then we will bring it to the Placer County Board of Supervisors in late June or early July.”

Placer County District 4 Supervisor Kirk Uhler, another Placer County Transportation Planning Agency board member, was skeptical of the measure’s success.

“I’m not seeing the kind of movement I was hoping for,” Uhler said. “The worst thing we could do is go on the ballot and lose.”