MORAGA -- Orinda won't be the only city this fall asking residents and out-of-towners to pay a little extra sales tax to fix ailing roads and storm drains.
Moraga officials voted this week to place a one-cent sales tax measure on the November ballot. Proceeds, they said, would be used to maintain and repair roads the Metropolitan Transportation Commission has ranked "at risk."
If approved, the tax would generate $1 million annually for the town's general fund and would address most of Moraga's street and road repair needs, officials said. The town has a $25 million backlog of road and storm drain repairs and an annual budget of about $6 million, $500,000 of which is dedicated to street maintenance. Town leaders estimate that it would require the elimination of all other services for four years in order to begin tackling the needed maintenance and repairs.
State takeaways of nearly $5 million since the early 1990s have also put a dent in Moraga's ability to pay for road repairs, leaders explained. Mayor Mike Metcalf said the town could not count on federal or state money to fix infrastructure problems and explained that it must be done locally. "It's up to us," he said.
Consultant Jennifer Rindahl told the council that revenue generated from the general tax is local and that the state would not be able to access that money. "These are funds you get to keep no matter what," she said.
Rindahl also stressed that food, prescription
Residents and business owners spoke in support of the measure, saying that not repairing the roads would be a serious detriment to the local economy. Some said the sales tax could give residents incentive to shop locally in order to fix the problem.
Most agreed that if the council placed the measure on the ballot, the next step would be to educate residents about the importance of passing it.
The tax needs simple majority approval to pass, and would expire in 20 years. Should voters reject the measure, Town Manager Jill Keimach said the town will continue to go after as many state and federal dollars as possible, but cautioned that the roads would continue to degenerate.
"I expect our roads to continue to decline at the same rate they have previously, but as they fall into greater disrepair, they will deteriorate faster," she said. "In 10 years, if we continue spending what we've been spending, 75 percent of all roads in Moraga will be in very poor condition -- which will likely impact the general fund."