Pittsburg may put sales tax increase on ballot to fund road work

With a large backlog of road fixes needed, Pittsburg may soon ask voters to approve a half-cent sales tax measure to help meet the challenges.

Pittsburg City Manager Garrett Evans said the city is facing about $84 million worth of deferred road maintenance and bicycle lane projects, and with revenue growth expected to be “slow to moderate,” it will need more money or cuts would have to come elsewhere to complete them.

“There aren’t that many grants to make that (backlog) up in a pretty substantial manner,” Evans said. “So, that’s why we’re looking at doing the sales tax measure.”

The city’s current sales tax is 9.25%, but Pittsburg is considering raising it to 9.75% to fill the gap for maintenance on some 345 miles of roadway, including some bicycle lanes.

The additional sales tax — an increase of a penny for every $2 spent in taxable goods — would generate $5.5 to $6.5 million a year, city staff say. It would require at least two-thirds of votes cast to pass, Evans said.

Evans, meanwhile, called roads a “priority” and is hopeful voters will agree with the proposed new tax going specifically for road maintenance. Poorly maintained roadways have more potholes, increasing wear-and-tear on vehicles, he noted.

“Without it, you’ll have a continued degradation of all the streets, and that impacts quality of life and impacts economic development, that impacts public safety,” he said. “So it is a major consideration for any city to try and maintain its roads in the best shape possible.”

If approved, the revenue generated would remain in Pittsburg and be dedicated solely to deferred maintenance of streets, roads and bike lanes. Since the need for increased revenue is partly because of inflation, city staff said the increase would be permanent rather than ending after a set number of years.

If passed, a five-member Citizen Oversight Committee would be created to monitor expenditures and recommend which roads and bike lanes need improvements. An outside audit would also be conducted annually and made public.

Evans said that in the past the city did much of its road maintenance through its redevelopment agency. But when redevelopment agencies were dissolved in 2012, Pittsburg lost about $3.6 million in redevelopment funds, which were diverted to the state coffers.

Also, in recent years, some big businesses such as Target and Bombardier Transportation have left Pittsburg, and the city now anticipates a 12.7% drop in sales tax revenue ($1.641 million) for 2024-25, according to staff.

The city is expecting new hotels and the Pittsburg Technology Park, a data center now undergoing environmental review, to add more taxes in the future, but for now, things are tight, Evans said.

Also, while Pittsburg still maintains reserve balances in nearly every city fund, Evans said those reserves are meant to be used for unforeseen emergencies or natural disasters.

“These are one-time funds … once they are used, they are gone — forever,” he said.

However, Evans said extra sales tax revenue could help because Pittsburg residents and nonresidents would pay it where they buy gas, food, clothing and other items and the state could not take it away, he said. City staff said most groceries and medicines, though, would not be affected by the tax increase.

This year the city “cobbled together” $11 million through various grants and funds for a major roadway repair and rehabilitation project mainly in an area south of Highway 4 and west of the city’s main power lines, Evans said. Without additional sales tax revenue, the city manager forecasted tough times.

“City officials may be forced to consider cutbacks in services and programs presently being provided by and/or through the city, while some services may have to be eliminated,” Evans said.

Before residents can vote on any sales tax measure, though, the City Council must first approve it being placed on an upcoming ballot. The council would have to vote on that by late July to meet November election deadlines, he said.

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