Tulare County road tax goes on Nov. 7 ballot

By Reggie Ellis

Each day Tulare County's roads grow worse and the amount of money needed to fix them grows larger.

It can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to pave one mile of road in California and there are nearly 4,000 miles of paved roads in Tulare County. Most of those roads lie outside city limits, which is why the Tulare County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted at its Aug. 8 meeting to place a half-cent transportation sales tax measure on the November ballot.

If approved by voters, the tax is anticipated to generate more than $652 million in funding over the next 30 years to improve roads, highways and intersections, fix potholes, repair bridges and construct bike lanes throughout Tulare County and its cities. The money would be divided into four categories: 50% for regional projects; 35% for local projects in each of county's eight cities and unincorporated communities; 14% for transit, light rail, bike and pedestrian projects; 1% for administrative costs.

The measure will require a two-thirds majority vote because the revenue is specifically earmarked for transportation and not for general use by the local governments. If approved, the measure would increase sales tax by a half cent in every city and unincorporated areas of the county. Exeter, Lindsay, Woodlake and Tulare County's sales tax would increase from 7.25% to 7.75%. Farmersville's would jump from 7.75% to 8.25%, the second highest in the county.

The project was proposed by the county's transportation agency, the Tulare County Association of Governments (TCAG), more than six months ago. TCAG consists of one city council member from each of the county's eight cities, all five members of the Board of Supervisors and three at-large members. The Exeter City Council voted not to take a stand with a 2-2 vote. Visalia was the only city to vote against supporting the measure.

Despite some dissension among the cities, preliminary polls conducting by TCAG show that most residents are in support of the measure.

TCAG sent out more than 50,000 postcards to voters in each of the eight cities several weeks ago. More than 1,300 responded with six of the cities showing at least 70% in favor of the plan: Visalia, 75%; Exeter, 74%; Lindsay, 77%. There was not enough response from Farmersville and Woodlake to provide a meaningful sample.

Supporters have already begun to organize for a short but intense campaign now until the Nov. 7 election.

Although no official name had been designated for the sales tax measure as of press time, the Committee for Measure ‘R' in &#8220Support of Better Roads,” selected officers to lead the campaign at its first meeting on Aug. 11.

The committee named co-chairs Joe Fischer, farmer and retired businessman of Visalia, and Scot Hillman, president of J.D. Heiskell of Tulare. Vice-chair of the committee is Dave Harrald, general manager of Kaweah River Rock of Woodlake. Treasurer for the committee is Jody Grove, partner with Vollmer, Daniel, Gaebe & Grove, CPAs, of Visalia.

&#8220By voting for Measure R, we will be able to keep control of our money right here, so every cent raised by the measure stays here to fund our transportation improvements,” noted vice-chair Harrald. &#8220Passing this initiative will also make us eligible for matching state and federal funds so we can double the money available. If we don't help ourselves, our gas tax money will continue to go to other areas to improve their roads.”

Other committee members include former member of the Board of Supervisors Gary Reed, of Porterville; Marlene Sario, of Rising Sun Construction, of Exeter; Stan Simpson, chairman emeritus of Buckman-Mitchell Insurance of Visalia; and Tom Barcellos, dairyman, of Tipton.

The committee meets weekly in the Mangano Community Room at the Visalia Chamber of Commerce. For information on the committee, contact Dave Harrald at 287-6454.

Start typing and press Enter to search