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Council Hears Tax Measures
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Oakdale voters may have to consider if they want to raise their local sales tax by 3/4 of a cent with two proposed measures that could be on the November 2014 ballot.

At the Feb. 18 Oakdale City Council meeting, two measures were discussed, both affecting the sales tax percent charged to purchases within the city.

The council heard from ad-hoc committee chairpersons Frank Clark and Mickey Peabody regarding appointments to the committee looking into extending the current quarter-cent tax charged from Measure O in November of 2011.

“It won’t be called Measure O this time around the county office said,” Peabody explained. “It will be called something else.

Peabody added that the Stanislaus County Clerk-Recorder’s Office explained that local ballot measures are lettered in order and revert back to the start of the alphabet.

“Basically Measure O would sunset and it would be a whole new tax initiative,” Peabody said.

Clark said he and Peabody each selected 20 names and made a decision to come up with the final seven that would be on the committee.

Clark asked the council to approve Ed Viohl, Steve Medlen, Dan Cummins, Mary Guardiola, Jan Brennan, Henry Raven, and Scott Hogg to the ad-hoc committee.

Also appointed was councilmember Don Petersen who will be liaison and a non-voting member of the committee.

The committee will not only look into exploring extending the Measure O sales tax where the money went into the general fund, but also look into exploring a special tax that would be for public safety only.

The special tax would require two-thirds of the vote for passage where the general measure would only require a simple majority for approval.

Stanislaus County Supervisors Bill O’Brien, Vito Chiesa, and Terry Withrow were on hand to show support as StanCOG Executive Director Carlos Yamzon asked the council to support a regional transportation tax measure for the November 2014 ballot and presented a regional tax measure expenditure plan.

Similar transportation sales tax measures failed in the county in 2006 and 2008.

According to Yamzon, the proposed half-cent sales tax increase could raise over $970 million in the 25-year period for road and transit projects in Stanislaus County. Oakdale would receive a 3.89 percent portion of the tax proceeds, over $18 million in projected revenue.

“We believe this is a fair and equitable way,” said City Manager Bryan Whitemyer who, along with other city managers, participated in the formula discussions.

The spending formula for the generated revenue would allot 47 percent for street repairs, 47 percent for new freeways, and 6 percent for bicycle projects and improving transportation for seniors and the disabled.

Yamzon explained that the revenue would go toward improving movement on roads, relieving congestion, increasing safety, and thus improving the economy in Stanislaus County.

Having the tax in place would also give the county the ability to leverage additional money in state and federal funds that are available to “self-help” counties with the surtaxes.

“The only county larger than Stanislaus without a transportation tax is Venture County,” Yamzon said. “Over 81 percent of California’s current population pays a transportation sales tax.”

“The populous counties have gone forward and done this,” said Councilman Mike Brennan.

Brennan, who sits on the StanCOG board, stated that Oakdale citizens had a higher percentage against the past two measures sending it down in defeat.

“Oakdale needs to push for and explain to citizens the need for the transportation tax,” Brennan said. “We didn’t educate them the first time. We need to do a better job.”

Councilman Farrell Jackson said he had to consider the downside of the tax; if it took spending power away from residents.

Brennan countered that the revenue generated from the tax would go to projects which would create jobs and generate spending to businesses.