CLEARLAKE, Calif. – A town hall meeting was held last Wednesday for the purpose of educating the public about a ballot measure that is projected to generate more than a $1 million annually for road maintenance and code enforcement in the city of Clearlake.
City voters will be asked to consider the 1-percent transaction and use tax in November.
Seventy-five percent of the anticipated revenues will be allocated to road maintenance, with the remaining 25 percent to be directed toward code enforcement.
Measure H is the same measure voters saw last November with Measure E, according to Clearlake City Manager Joan Phillipe, who was present during the meeting along with City Engineer Bob Galusha.
The 2012 measure gained a majority vote but not the two-thirds support it needed to pass, falling about 154 votes short.
The Oct. 2 meeting was conducted in question and answer format, beginning with a presentation by the Yes on Measure H Committee and a list of most frequently asked questions.
About 60 people joined the discussion at Lake County Youth Services center on Golf Avenue, including members of the No on Measure H Committee.
The initiative is being brought back to the voters because it is suspected that the public did not receive enough information about the measure in order to make an informed decision, according to the measure's proponents.
Phillipe said it's believed that the measure could have a good chance of passing if public were to be provided with more information.
Officials were asked why the tax was being proposed when city staff salaries have increased. Phillipe said the increase in salaries reflected in the budget is a result of insurance increases and the absorption of salary expenses that were previously allocated through the redevelopment agency before its dissolution.
The city of Clearlake has a maintained street system of 112 miles, consisting of 63 miles of paved streets and 49 miles of unpaved, gravel or dirt streets.
According to Galusha, the city has a deferred maintenance need of $17 million. The city is currently spending about $40,000 annually for repair and maintenance. He said with the current funding levels the city's street system will continue to deteriorate.
“The money we have in the gas tax isn’t' going to cut it. There needs to be consistent funding to make progress,” Galusha said. “Without some increased revenue you're not got going to have a road system.”
Galusha said it will take about five years to begin systematically rehabilitating the system while protecting the investments of recent road projects.
Arterial streets, such as Lakeshore Drive, Olympic Drive and Old Highway 53, will be of the highest priority, he said. Next will be collector streets and then residential roads.
According to the Yes on Measure H Committee, paved roads that have turned to dirt will be repaved over time.
Measure H funds are not to go toward public work salaries, officials said. Public works staffing is to continue to be funded through gas tax funds. The only funds earmarked for salaries are within the 25 percent designated for code enforcement.
A total of $230,000 is set aside for staffing of two code enforcement officers, one animal control officer and a portion of the animal services contract with SPCA.
Health and safety issues will be a priority for code enforcement. Other areas of service will include animal control, vehicle abatement, dilapidated structures, trash and debris.
“There is already a list generated by complaints but initially, once staff is in place, several things will occur: A strategy will be developed to survey the city to classify conditions and a plan laid out to systematically begin addressing the worst properties first. An educational brochure will be developed to encourage self compliance as well,” said Yes on Measure H Committee presenter Mike Vandiver.
Vandiver said the sales tax proposal is better than a property tax initiative because sales tax applies to everyone making taxable purchases, including those visiting the area. A property tax would apply only to property owners and also would require a vote.
Passage of the measure would designate the city as a “self-help” city, thereby improving its opportunities to receive grants when state and federal funding becomes available. Vandiver said the city could expect incremental payments within six months.
Among other questions answered during the meeting was how the funds were to be monitored.
The funds are to be subject of an annual independent audit and will be included in budget discussions, officials reported.
State law requires the city to prepare and adopt an expenditure plan describing specific projects for which the revenues from the tax may be used. There will be a five year plan implemented by public works, and it will be revised and changed as needed.
The Clearlake City Council will oversee the work to make sure the plan is adhered to, and officials said the city council can revise the plan as needed based on public and city needs.
The public can attend council meetings and budget workshops to provide input.
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