Paso Roblans will soon choose whether they want to pay a half-cent more on each dollar they spend on a pair of pants, toilet paper or anything else with sales tax in order to help repair the city’s roads.
The Paso Robles City Council decided Tuesday to put a half-cent general sales tax increase to the voters in November.
But in the same breath, in a maneuver to get around the higher bar needed to pass a specific-use tax, the council approved a second ballot measure guiding future councils to use the money on roads.
“The comments I’ve heard from the public are very adamant that it’s used for streets primarily. All we’re doing is letting people have a say in getting the bloody streets fixed,” Councilman Nick Gilman said.
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These actions come after much debate over what kind of tax increase citizens would most likely approve — a general or specific-use tax.
The council has toyed with the decision since March. The problem: a specific-use tax requires a higher percentage of the electorate to pass it than a general-use tax does.
Some critics have worried a general tax would go to employee pay instead of road repairs, prompting the council to make the move it did Tuesday.
The half-cent tax hike would bring nearly $3 million each year for 12 years to the city, which has imposed across-the-board cuts since 2009.
Specific-use tax measures require a two-thirds vote and have separate accounts for their intended uses, while general tax measures need only 50 percent plus one vote because the resulting funds would go into the city’s general fund.
Residents wary of the council’s actions spoke out against the decision.
“They don’t trust a general fund election,” Paso Robles resident Jerry Jones said of the public. “If you’re going to approve it, it will be an uphill battle all the way.”
In June, the council unanimously agreed to the general sales tax. At the time, Mayor Duane Picanco said he might change his mind later because he really wanted to go forward with a specific-use tax. Tuesday’s vote finalized the June decision.
On Tuesday, Picanco was the sole vote against the general tax.
“There are no other priorities that I have and this council has than fixing our streets,” he said.
In contrast, Picanco in June gave in to the majority’s preference for a general tax. For the measure to get on the ballot, the five-member council must have a supermajority.
Despite Picanco’s dissent, Tuesday’s 4-1 vote still was sufficient to pass the proposal.
Paso Robles receives 1 percentage point of the 7.25 percent sales tax per dollar spent that local shoppers see on their receipts.