Guidelines set for Paso Robles road tax committee

Paso Robles voters want new money for roads, and the City Council on Tuesday tackled one of its first post-election actions to start that process.

The first step, in a move approved Tuesday night, is to form a seven-member public committee to oversee the new pot of money from the city’s temporary half-cent sales tax increase that voters passed in November.

Committee members would oversee expenditures from the new general fund sales tax increase and make sure the income goes toward road upkeep, as a second approved voter measure intended. The group would also review what road projects have been done and study a range of future options.

“This is a very important part of our tax initiative, and we want participation,” Mayor Duane Picanco said just before opening the item to public comment. 

No one came forward.

The rest of the discussion laid out the ground rules on how the council wants the committee to operate: It would remain involved for the length of the tax increase  — 12 years — unless otherwise canceled by the majority of the council, and its members would meet every six months in sessions that would be open to the public. The seven members would also serve overlapping three-year terms with an application process to

follow when someone’s seat is up.

The council directed staff to accept applications from the public for three spots on the committee through the city’s regular advisory board application.

That form asks the applicant for basic personal information and asks why they’re seeking the position. Applications are online or at City Hall. The council then plans to review and appoint applicants. No application deadline was given Tuesday.

The remaining four spots are to be selected from the memberships of community organizations. The council chose groups presented by city staff: the Paso Robles Chamber of Commerce, Paso Robles Downtown Main Street Association, Travel Paso Robles Alliance and the Senior Citizens Advisory Committee. It wasn’t clear why those groups were recommended.

Councilman Fred Strong suggested adding local service clubs, the historical society or a bicycling coalition to the mix, but Picanco opted to stick with the recommended organizations and the council agreed.

The new measure, which starts April 1, raises the city’s sales tax by a half-cent for the next 12 years. The increase was predicted to bring the city nearly 

$3 million annually, but revised estimates have grown to $3.5 million annually based on the city’s gross sales tax income of $7 million per year.

The city needs the supplemental cash for street repairs because of dwindling state and federal road funds.

A revamped roadwork program could begin as soon as the summer.