Survey shows strong support for improving county roads
Citizens say "make roads a priority"
Over 600 county residents responded to our on-line survey and provided their opinions on the solutions proposed by the county supervisors and several suggestions by SOSroads.
Nearly all respondents believe that roads are an essential county
responsibility (94%) and that their current condition is bad-to-terrible (81%).
This implies that Sonoma County is failing to provide this essential responsibility. Many (42%) attribute bad roads as a cause of damage to their vehicles.
93% support the preparation of a comprehensive plan for how the road system will be fixed including identifying which roads will not be repaired.
Most respondents believe the county should increase road funding to the level that existed in 2001, which was 9% of the property tax revenue that is available to the county. In 2011, the county committed only 3% of this revenue to roads.
In contrast, pensions cost the county 94% of county property tax revenue or 2011. The total 2011 county pension obligation of $166.2 million consisted of a combination of cash contributions ($61.4 million) plus an increase to unfunded obligations of $104.8 million.
While only one-third of respondents support new taxes to fix roads in principle, support was higher for specific taxes.
These taxes include extending the Measure M Â¼ cent sales tax (67% approved), increasing the tourist occupancy (63% approved) or a new $20 vehicle registration fee (57% approved).
However, assessing parcel owners for road maintenance taxes of $300-500 garnered only 29% approval (69% opposed this).
All three tax increases would require a 2/3 majority vote and if approved would collectively add about $7.3 million annually for road maintenance (improving approximately 15 miles of additional roads per year).
Extension of Measure M, which was used to fund the U.S. 101 expansion to three lanes in Sonoma County, is probably most likely to succeed.
However, Measure M money would not be available for another 12 years and would only provide about $4 million more for county roads after 2025, improving an additional 8 miles per year.
The hotel tax increase is also favored, probably since it wonâ€™t be paid by residents. This tax increase would raise only about $2.5 million.
The vehicle fee of $20 was the least favored and would raise only $2.8 million per year.
Combined these two added taxes might allow an additional 10 miles of improved roads each year.
This survey shows that Sonoma County residents believe county government needs to repair our roads and are willing to pay for it. However, the public also believes even more strongly that the county should use existing general fund revenue to bring road maintenance back to prior levels, whether accomplished by payroll/pension reductions or cuts to overall county spending.
Efforts to raise additional funds will likely fail if the public lacks confidence that the board of supervisors is serious about addressing the roads crisis.
SOSroads believes that a long term plan together with a firm commitment to devote substantial general funds to road repair and maintenance will help earn the needed confidence.
SOSroads.org is an all-volunteer Sonoma County-wide citizensâ€™ group formed to advocate for an improved allocation of public funds to roads.
Sonoma County has 1,382 miles of roads, but only 200 miles are funded to maintain the pavement in good condition. The remaining 1,182 miles receive only pothole filling, and many have already begun to fall apart and will eventually deteriorate to gravel or dirt. Fixing Sonoma Countyâ€™s road system will cost tens of millions of additional dollars annually.
Maintaining roads has been a fundamental county responsibility since Sonoma County was formed in 1855. Our economic viability and quality of life are directly impacted by our ability to move safely and effectively on our roads.
Complete survey results are available at Survey Results
at SOSroads.org homepage.