Richmond council votes to use half of Measure U proceeds for road repair

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Richmond City Council voted Tuesday to use half of the proceeds from Measure U, a half-cent sales tax that passed Nov. 4, for road repair.

That half, roughly $3.75 million annually, will be used to pay for a bond, which is basically a loan, so the city can have more funds up front to effectively tackle deteriorating streets. The bond would be repaid annually using the Measure U proceeds, according to Finance Director Jim Goins.

“A lot of the time when we fix the street, we pay one-and-a-half or twice as much when we get around to fixing it [due to increased roadway deterioration],” said Councilmember Jim Rogers, who proposed the funding declaration. “With a bond, you can get on top of it and get ahead of the curve.”

The vote received near-unanimous approval, with Councilmember Corky Booze dissenting.

While Councilmember Nat Bates voted in favor of Rogers’ motion, he and Booze believed 50-percent of the Measure U proceeds was not enough for road repair. They believe the public was misled into believing more of the tax money would go to roads.

The council initially proposed the tax specifically for road repair. Worried the measure wouldn’t receive the two-thirds voter-approval needed for a specific purpose tax, it opted to place a general tax on the November ballot. That meant proceeds could be used for a wide variety of other city purposes other than road repair.

Before the election, residents were polled on how they would want their tax dollars spent. After the polling, ballot language and campaign literature indicated the Measure U revenue would be used for multiple purposes, including road repair, public safety and youth programs. Because of that pre-election public vetting, Rogers and others on council believe they are staying true to their promise to voters.

Tuesday’s vote, said Councilmember Jael Myrick, “makes very clear that there were no shenanigans going on.”

“We’re going to do exactly what we had planned to do with Measure U,” Myrick added.

As part of the motion, city staff has been instructed to return to council with a breakdown of how the bond for street repair will work financially.

“I think it would be instructive for staff to put together a summary that shows why it is fiscally responsible to use a bond to bring a lot of streets up to a certain level as opposed to trickling in a small amount of money every year,” Councilmember Tom Butt said.

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