About the Colony

Atascadero's proposed sales tax increase is a great deal

Special to The TribuneMay 19, 2014 

Lon Allan

THE TRIBUNE

Everyone loves a bargain.

That’s what I’d call it if Atascadero voters approved raising the local sales tax by one-half percent to generate between $1.7 million and $2 million in additional revenue to maintain local roads.

Russ Thompson, the city’s public works director, told a local audience last week that Atascadero has just under 170 miles of roads and of that, 140 miles are considered “city maintained” streets. The city has about $1.5 million a year right now, but that isn’t enough to repair and maintain its system of roads. Thompson also pointed to the benefit of keeping roads in “good condition” as compared to rebuilding “failed” roads. He said the city spends about 50 cents a square foot to keep good roads in good condition, while it costs $5 a square foot to fix “poor” (his term) streets and $12 a square foot to rebuild what the city calls “failed” streets.

Next month the City Council will take a vote on whether to place the one-half percent increase in local sales tax on the November ballot. Presently, Atascadero is the only city in the county that charges 7.5 percent sales tax; all the other cities have levied the eight percent sales tax.

Thompson said the one-half percent increase would raise about $1.7 million to $2 million a year that could be spent on road maintenance within the Colony. That would more than double the amount of revenue available to maintain our curvy and hilly streets at a time when federal funds available to the city for road repair are getting more difficult to get.

If the council puts the issue on the ballot, it should be as a general tax increase because approval would need only 50 percent (plus one) of the votes cast. We’d have to trust the council to use all the money on roads and not something else. A specific tax measure for road repair would need two thirds voter approval, almost impossible to get these days.

When I moved to Atascadero in 1966 many local streets were still dirt, even some that came right up to the downtown. I was glad to see them paved by the county, and then the city.

I’ve always viewed taxes as the cost I pay for living in an organized society. In this instance, the impact on our wallets would be minimal: 50 cents on a $100 taxable purchase.

I would encourage the council to take action to place the issue on the November ballot as a general tax measure.

What a deal!

Lon Allan has lived in Atascadero for nearly five decades, and his column is published weekly. Reach him at 466-8529 or leallan@tcsn.net.

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