By BOB NORBERG
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County voters will be asked in November to increase vehicle registration fees by $10 to repair potholes and fund bus transit and school safety projects.
The measure, which would raise $5 million a year, received final approval Monday by the Sonoma County Transportation Authority.
It is meant to make up for the deep cuts the state has made in funding transit, and also to provide financing for Safe Route to Schools programs.
“We need to double the amount of funding for bus service,” said Steve Birdlebaugh, a member of Friends of SMART. “This won’t do it all, but it is a step in the right direction.”
Under the proposal, 60 percent of the money from the fee would go to bus systems operated by Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, Petaluma and Healdsburg, as well for incentives such as employer or school-sponsored transit and to enhance transit for seniors.
“Seniors are the most vulnerable and fastest growing demographic in the county,” said Ginny Doyle, a Sonoma County human services worker.
Twelve percent would be for Safe Routes to Schools, to improve safety and encourage students to walk or ride bicycles to school, and 5 percent for administration.
As a carrot to voters, 23 percent of the fee would be for street repair that is broadly defined to include potholes, paving, streetlights, sidewalks, bicycle lanes and bus turnouts.
A poll conducted in May by the Service Employees International Union indicated that 55 percent of likely Sonoma County voters would approve the measure if it included fixing potholes and maintaining streets.
A simple majority is needed for passage.
The authority, which has been discussing the measure since February, initially balked at providing funding for street repairs and had allocated 68 percent for bus transit.
“I look at this as a victory for getting the measure passed,” said Petaluma Councilman David Glass, who had long advocated pothole repair. “Sixty percent of something is better than 68 percent of nothing.”
The measure passed on a 7-2 vote, with Cloverdale Mayor Carol Russell and Sonoma Councilwoman Laurie Gallian opposing it. Sonoma County supervisors Shirlee Zane and Paul Kelley and Healdsburg Councilman Mike McGuire were absent.