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Council OKs road tax hike spending plan
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Members of the Ceres City Council formally approved the spending plan for tax revenues should county voters approve a half-cent sales tax measure for roads in November.

Vince Harris, executive director of the Stanislaus Council of Governments (StanCOG), said the new ballot measure calls for a 20-year tax rather than the 30-year term that was crafted into the failed Measure K, which voters shot down in November 2006. The proposal, which was vastly different in scope, received 58 percent approval, falling short of the 66 percent plus one vote for passage.

Measure K would have generated $1.02 billion but the new measure would raise an estimated $700 million.

Harris said he expects enough cities to approve the measure so that it gets on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Half of the revenues would be spent on local road maintenance and spent as the cities and county see fit, while the other half would be used to construct new roads. The formula would give Ceres $27.6 million for local road maintenance.

The city of Ceres would also benefit from having a major project - the Service/Mitchell/99 interchange project - including in the capital corridor program of $350 million. The monies would help improve Highway 132 in Modesto, Highway 108 in Riverbank and Oakdale, and the West Main Corridor in Turlock, Newman, and Patterson.

The pot of money for new road projects is being split into three areas: northern, central and southern corridors. The Service/Mitchell/99 interchange project would take a $30 million chunk of the central corridor monies. Ceres officials asked for $62 million for Service/Mitchell.

Ceres Mayor Anthony Cannella said $30 million for the Service/Mitchell project would enable the city to be eligible for matching state road grants combined with developer fees set aside for the project. He noted that Stanislaus County is seriously lacking in road monies and said of the latest formula: "Although it's not perfect, it's pretty fair."

Supervisor Jim DeMartini commented that the tax hike plan allows Ceres to come out very well.

City Manager Brad Kilger said that if voters approve the measure, cities can only alter the spending plan through a series of public meetings.