The Coast News Group
Community Community Oceanside

Half-cent sales tax may come to county

OCEANSIDE — The City Council and Planning Commission heard SANDAG present information last week on a possible county half-cent sales tax to help fund regional transportation projects.

Charles Stoll, SANDAG director of land use and transportation planning, said the intention of the talks is to feel the waters before bringing forward a ballot measure for a tax.

The adopted Regional Transportation Plan has $204 billion of projects in the queue that address transportation needs for the next 20 years.

“The plan is very ambitious,” Stoll said. “It needs funding sources, potentially a new funding source (the tax).”

The current half-cent sales tax has allowed 650 projects to be completed. Stoll said $3.3 billion raised by the tax over 25 years has leveraged $10 billion in state and federal matching dollars to fund projects.

An increased tax would multiply that outcome.

Mayor Jim Wood supported the tax increase at the Feb. 3 presentation to the City Council.

“If TransNet and SANDAG are trying to move up projects, this is the way to do it,” Wood said.

Comments by the City Council members and commissioners ranged from feeling last on the list for road improvements, to urging promised expansion of route 78, completion of city rail trails and double tracking and upgrades to Oceanside’s Transit Center.

“With all the great projects, North County seems to get less money,” Councilwoman Esther Sanchez said at the Feb. 3 presentation.

Commissioners said they need to see where the tax money would go before they could support a ballot measure.

“There’s obvious needs, but there are big numbers, with so many projects, I want more (information),” Commissioner Claudia Troisi said at the presentation to the commission.

SANDAG is collecting feedback from cities, telephone town hall meetings and online surveys. A ballot measure would require a two-thirds vote to pass.

Community input will be mulled over by SANDAG in March.

Then SANDAG will decide whether to go forward with a voter survey that would include a proposed project list that the additional tax would fund. The list could include accelerating ongoing projects and funding new ones.

Tax funds could improve roadways, rail systems, transportation hubs, bike trails, water quality and habitat restoration, and provide grants for city projects.

If SANDAG decides to go forward with a ballot initiative a survey would come before county voters in spring, and a measure would be filed by July to be on the November ballot.