After failing votes in elections of 2006 and 2008, the Stanislaus Council of Governments (StanCOG) is again aiming for a local tax for transportation issues in Stanislaus County. The difference this time than in previous years, according to Kendall Flint, Regional Government Services Director of Communications & Strategic Planning, is that there is now a majority of support for the tax among county voters and two-thirds of the money would be for local projects controlled by the cities.
Flint noted that support in Ceres is right at 66 percent in support of the tax.
After 40 community meetings, the public suggested they would support the tax if specific uses are identified.
"Nobody is going to step up for a tax if you're not going to tell them specifically what you're going to do with it," said Flint.
In her presentation to the Ceres City Council on Monday, Flint said that a barrier of previous proposals was local control over what kind of projects the revenue would be used for, pointing out that in 2006 only 25 percent was for local usage and the new 2016 proposal would have over 65 percent going to local ventures.
Flint added that there are indications that money is being pulled away from federal monies provided to local governments and, with falling gas prices, up to $36 million could be pulled away from local transportation budgets.
Adding to that, the California Transportation Commission will be reducing projected funding available for the state's transportation program by $754 million over the next five years, resulting in a $7.5 million cut to county transportation coffers.
"If counties don't get on board with funding, their own infrastructures will fail," Flint said. "Sacramento won't be able to touch the money (from the tax) since it would be locally funded and locally controlled."
Flint said cities like Ceres could spend half of all revenues on street repairs. In addition, Ceres could use the revenue to provide safe school zones, bike lanes, provide shuttle services for seniors, and synchronize traffic lights to reduce back-ups.
Countywide, money would be used to reduce Highway 99 congestion and other routes.
Because of the reduced congestion, economic vitality would be instilled because of the promotion of the movement of goods and product.
"The Modesto Metro area is 20th worst in the country for traffic congestion," Flint said. "The average cost of vehicle repairs due to road conditions and poor mileage due to road conditions is $562 a year per motorist."
StanCOG's plan is to have the measure for the half-cent sales tax increase on the November 2016 ballot.