News

County supervisors to look at sales tax hike for transportation

Board opts against pursuing tax measure for public safety in 2016

Contra Costa County supervisors on Tuesday agreed to lay the groundwork for a measure to increase the county's transportation sales tax next year.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to continue evaluating a half-cent sales tax measure that could appear on the November 2016 ballot. It is expected to generate $2.3 billion over 25 years for various transit projects if approved by voters.

Supervisors chose not to consider another sales tax measure that would have included funds for police and fire services over the transportation funding in 2016. Supervisors instead are pushing for a special public safety tax measure in 2018.

The decision to move forward with a sales tax increase for roads and transit was a boon for Contra Costa Transportation Authority, which has been engaged in conversations with public agencies about the need for additional funding.

Ross Chittenden, executive director for the authority, said the county's roads and transit options have to be prepared for a population increase of nearly 30% over the next 25 years.

"And these people need to get around," he said. "Especially as people are looking for alternatives to the car, we need to ensure we're providing good transportation alternatives."

The funding from a sales tax increase could be used for up to 20 different categories including improved BART service and more dedicated biking pathways, Chittenden said.

"The county's transportation needs are broad," he said.

The proposed half-cent sales tax measure could build on an already-existing half-cent sales tax for transportation, which won't expire until 2034.

But there's no such tax for public safety. Fire, police and district attorney's officials came to Tuesday's supervisors meeting to ask that one be considered ahead of the tax for transportation.

Sgt. Shawn Welch, president of sheriff's association for the county, said staffing is a major issue.

"We do not have the staffing to deal with more than just one problem," he told supervisors.

He mentioned Saturday's fatal shooting in Rodeo, during which, he said, he watched calls for service stack up.

Supervisors acknowledged it was a problem, but said they didn't have time to build voter support behind a tax for public safety.

Supervisor Candace Andersen, whose district includes the San Ramon Valley, said voters see solving traffic problems as something they're more readily willing to pay for.

The transportation sales tax measure will continue to be evaluated, and is not guaranteed to appear on the 2016 ballot as of yet.

— Bay City News Service

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Comments

11 people like this
Posted by Long term resident
a resident of Danville
on Oct 23, 2015 at 6:50 am

In 1966, a "temporary" sales tax was put in place to help fund BART until it could generate revenue and profit. That tax is still there and who knows where the funds are going. I suspect it has helped fund the outrageous BART employee salaries and benefits which are amongst the highest in the U.S. These taxes are no good unless there is proper governance and oversight to make certain they are actually used in the manner in which we are told when we vote. Why are the Contra Costa supervisors trying to handle this issue in this manner when the Feds and state are talking about raising gasoline and diesel taxes for the same purpose? Based on past behaviors, I do not have confidence in how the funds will be used. Look how many people got fooled when the voted for the high speed train bonds a few years ago.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Kluget
a resident of Danville
on Oct 23, 2015 at 10:47 am

So, long term, you think we'd be better off without BART? It's easy to sit in your armchair and complain, but the adults in the room are actually working on making things better for the future. And that requires public transportation, whether you plan on using it or not. The vibrant Bay Area economy is boosted by better public transportation. Younger residents are less auto-centric than the old folks and use public transit much more intensively.

Oh - and your "history" of the BART sales tax is inaccurate. No surprise there. People who rely on what they "suspect" tend to be cavalier about real facts.


7 people like this
Posted by C. R. Mudgeon
a resident of Danville
on Oct 23, 2015 at 11:29 am

Did the original poster ever say that "we'd be better off without BART"? RIF (reading is fundamental), Mr. Kluget. The OP DID criticize the management of BART, including the salaries and benefits paid to BART employees (including management). And it is also fair to point out that BART revenues only cover (roughly) 2/3 of BART's budget, meaning that it continues to be significantly subsidized.

It's also fair to point out that the existing half-cent sales tax for transportation, which doesn't expire until 2034, has also been growing in dollar amount, as our population increases, and as the economy grows (more slowly). And, the existing half-cent sales tax revenue will continue to grow, more or less proportionally with future population growth and economic growth/inflation. Doubling the tax rate, on top of the growth in dollars that will already occur, seems more than excessive.

And there will also be some degree of negative impact on our local economy, from the raised sales tax rate, which of course is never factored into the projections.

At what point does our total sales tax rate, with all of the little half-cent and quarter-cent adders, become excessive, or even "enough"? Is it 10%, 11%, 15%? (On top of federal income tax, one of the highest state income taxes in the country, and property taxes.) The answer for our elected officials and other government types and politicians is that it is never enough.


1 person likes this
Posted by Long Term Resident
a resident of Danville
on Oct 23, 2015 at 11:48 am

Peter:

You have once again jumped to wrong conclusions from my comments. Every time I go to places like Los Angeles or Houston, I am pleased we have BART. However, every time I travel to other countries, which I do often, I realize how poor BART is from a quality standpoint even though it is one of the most expensive systems. My primary issue is with taking funds that are supposed to be used in one area and using them for other purposes. The politicians (or "adults in the room") have done that too many times and I am skeptical.

I do agree that younger people don't have the love affair with cars and want to use more public transportation. That's a good thing as long as there is transparency and honesty in how the public transportation is funded. Even in my case, I ride a bike and cover about 25% of my miles each year that way. I don't call that sitting in an armchair.

Just so you know, I am not opposed to change. I was one of the people who helped the effort to incorporate Danville to help take control of our future and stop having key funding decisions made in Martinez (Contra Costa County seat).

As for the BART tax, please look it up. It was imposed by the state legislature in three counties in 1969 to "cover debt service and operating costs of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system, then already under construction".


3 people like this
Posted by Hmm...
a resident of Danville
on Oct 23, 2015 at 4:14 pm

Interesting, first CoCo supervisors asked and received additional transportation stipend from tax payers, now they are asking tax payers to pay increased transportation tax. Maybe they should reverse the 1st ask to make the 2nd ask work? Why are we paying both when many of us have way longer commutes to deal with daily than these supervisors and apparently none of them is paying our transportation cost?


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