Victoria officials not convinced sales tax is best option to fund residential streets

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

April 15, 2014 at 10:03 p.m.
Updated April 14, 2014 at 11:15 p.m.

Victoria City Council is weighing options to fund a growing list of residential street repairs, now exceeding $138 million.

At Tuesday's council meeting, Mayor Paul Polasek presented an idea to redirect a portion of sales tax dollars from the Victoria Sales Tax Development Board, which focuses on economic development projects, and put that to use in neighborhoods.

If approved by voters, about $2 million, which would otherwise go to the sales tax development board, would instead fund residential street repairs.

However, issues with existing bond payments and project priorities could put the brakes on that proposal.

Councilman Tom Halepaska, who serves on the sales tax development board, said although it would not involve a tax increase to Victoria residents, diverting the money to neighborhoods would take away from some capital improvement projects, which could include Red River Street.

"It's robbing Peter to pay Paul," Halepaska said. "We have a projects list and rely on this money to cover it."

At the rate residential street projects are currently funded, it would be 101 years before one is rebuilt. The city has about 80 miles of residential streets that need reconstruction, and about half the subdivisions' utilities need to be replaced or rehabilitated.

Currently, the city budgets about $2 million to reconstruct residential streets, which comes out to repairing one subdivision a year.

Councilwoman Josephine Soliz, who also serves on the sales tax development board, said it takes balance.

The additional $2 million would impact some streets and cover a small subdivision, she said.

Streets in her district have been neglected and need major repairs, she said.

"Our streets are in terrible shape - just look at Juan Linn," she said. "I know everybody talks about Red River Street, but you've got to look at your north and south roads, too."

She said the idea needs to be studied and discussed more thoroughly. Finding and prioritizing funding isn't an easy task.

"Somebody wants a park and this and that, but we need to get to our streets," she said.

Polasek said one of the biggest decisions facing the council is agreeing how to fund the projects, which have been pushed off for so many years.

"Staff is advising us that we have a serious problem with regard to residential street maintenance," Polasek said.

The portion of sales tax wouldn't solve all the issues but would be a start, he said.

"We shouldn't leave (this) problem to future councils," he said.



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