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It's official: Road tax vote on
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It's official: Stanislaus County voters will be asked to decide on Nov. 4 if they wish to raise sales taxes in the county by a half-cent to improve local roads. The Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors ordered the election at its July 22 meeting.

All five supervisors supported taking the measure to the voters. Officials are hopeful that this time voters will not reject a tax increase. In November 2006, voters rejected Measure K, a 30-year tax hike plan. It received 58 percent approval, falling short of the 66 percent plus one vote for passage.

The new measure is a 20-year tax increase. It will raise an estimated $700 million for road maintenance and road construction projects.

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 pot of money for new road projects is being split for spending in three corridors: northern, central and southern. The Service/Mitchell/99 interchange project would take a $30 million chunk of the central corridor monies of $350 million. Ceres officials orginally requested for $62 million for Service/Mitchell.

In the other corridors, the new tax dollars would be spent to improve Highway 132 in Modesto, Highway 108 in Riverbank and Oakdale, and the West Main Corridor in Turlock, Newman, and Patterson.

In his State of the City Address, Ceres Mayor Anthony Cannella urged voters to support the tax increase.

"I know it is frustrating because every time we turn around we are taxed-but if we want to improve our roads and guarantee a funding source for road maintenance for the next 20 years, this is the only way we can do it," said Cannella.

The mayor noted that the measure would ensure $35 million for the Service/Mitchell/Highway 99 interchange, saying it would "go a long way towards finally constructing this interchange."

Cannella said the tax would mean Stanislaus County would become a "self help" county which means no longer receiving leftover funding.

"If we pass this half-cent sales tax we will be eligible for matching funds from the state of California. What does that mean to us? Well, best case, the $35 million we would receive towards Service Mitchell could grow to $70 million with matching funds. That is close to what we need to build this interchange."

Supervisor Jim DeMartini, who represents Ceres in District 5, said "I believe this is a very good plan, not just for Ceres but the county. Ceres comes out very well on this."