ORINDA -- Voters will decide in November whether to pay extra at the cash register to raise money to repair the city's ailing roads and storm drains.
Orinda officials approved Tuesday placing a half-cent sales tax measure on the general election ballot to help raise money for fixing residential roads. If passed, city leaders believe the tax could raise $540,000 next year -- an amount that will increase annually and raise $6.7 million during the tax's decade-long life span.
They also greenlighted a 10-year plan to repair and maintain Orinda's 92.5 miles of public roads, of which the sales tax is only the first phase. Other funding measures the city is considering include placing general obligation bonds or parcel tax measures on future ballots to raise $40 million for additional phases of "intense and larger" road and drain repairs. They could also, if the sales tax is approved, extend it when it expires in 2023.
"It shows a commitment to a long-term solution," Vice Mayor Amy Worth said about the plan, which could raise $47 million by 2024.
Mayor Steve Glazer said the plan shows where the sales tax fits in and lays out how the city will repair its roads. "It's worthy of our overall support," he said.
According to a staff report, it costs about $2.2 million annually to maintain the most heavily used roads, including arterials, collectors and school routes. The funding comes from various sources, including transportation and
But due to the city's policy of focusing on streets affected by the greatest number of users, staffers say no money has been spent on improvements to residential streets. Voters rejected bond measures in 2006 and 2007 for $59.1 million and $58.6 million, respectively, and the city says discretionary general fund dollars are limited after expenses for police, engineering, legal and other costs.
Meanwhile, the roads have continued to deteriorate; residential roads are rated 37 on the "pavement condition index," an industry standard that places streets on a grading scale of "0," or impassable paved road, to "100," or brand new road.
Overall numbers are slightly better. The city's PCI rating is 49 and is predicted to drop six points by 2014 at the current spending level. The goal is to bring the streets to a good condition, or a PCI rating of 70.
Residents spoke in support of the tax, saying it's time to move forward and fix the roads. One said she feels taxpayers trust officials to follow through on the repairs; another said she thought the tax was "a good and reasonable first step" that would give the city a great opportunity to demonstrate progress and build trust.
"I almost feel like calling a moment of silence," Glazer quipped after hearing public comments, saying he hasn't heard all speakers support a tax measure before and that what he was hearing was consensus to take a step forward.