County, city differ on Measure R projected surplus
Tulare County supervisors say it would be premature to recommend how to spend a projected $15 million surplus in Measure R dollars for transit, bike and pedestrian environmental projects.
Officials with the City of Porterville, however, have plenty of suggestions.
When Measure R was adopted in 2006, it was expected the half-cent sales tax would generate slightly more than $652 million over 30 years to pay for the county’s transportation needs. County officials now say the tax could generate up to 10 percent more in revenue.
Measure R funds are divided into four categories, including 1% for administration and planning, 35% for local programs, 50% for regional projects and 14% for transit/bike/environmental programs.
Recently, the Tulare County Transportation Authority — the body that oversees how Measure R money is spent — sent out a memo asking the county and cities within the county to submit requests for amendments to the measure’s expenditure plan. The memo also noted there is roughly $15 million of anticipated surplus revenue in the transit/bike/environmental program.
Porterville city manager John Lollis said the city has already submitted a letter in regard to amending the spending plan. In regard to the projected surplus, if the transportation authority opts to use the money on new projects, Lollis said the city’s already got several in mind.
“We have three projects that we’ve been actively working on design,” Lollis said Wednesday.
One project entails improvements to the trailway along Veterans Park including “making it an all-weather surface, lighting it, another restroom facility and other features to encourage pedestrian and bike travel around and through Veterans Park,” Lollis said.
A second project that could be funded by the surplus is a Rails to Trails project from Henderson Avenue to Plano Street, connecting the existing Tule River Parkway.
A third project is completing the Tule River Parkway between Plano Street and Westwood Street.
The trail would start at Henderson Avenue, connect to the Tule River Parkway at Plano Street and follow the Tule River down to Westwood street. From there, the trail would go to Morton Avenue and pick up the existing bike lane and reconnect with Henderson.
At the Nov. 13 Board of Supervisors meeting, county staff was recommending the board endorse a letter advising the Tulare County Transportation Authority that it not add any projects to the transit/bike/environmental program and to set aside at least half of the $15 million surplus for future programming into the next 15 years.
At that meeting, Supervisor Phil Cox said he disagreed with sending the letter, saying it would be premature to put new projects onboard until they get a comprehensive review of Measure R.
The board voted unanimously to hold off on any recommendations.
Supervisor Mike Ennis later said he thought it was important to have some public outreach before offering up an opinion about what to do with the money.
“This is the people’s money and transit and bicycle paths aren’t as important as fixing roads,” Ennis said. “I think we just need to get input from the people...there are so many things we can use that money for.”
Contact Denise Madrid at 784-5000, Ext. 1047. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseMadrid_.