Sonoma County transit planners gave strong support Monday for a last-minute proposal to put a $10 vehicle registration fee on the June ballot.
The fee would raise about $5 million a year to fund local bus transportation, the Safe Route to Schools program and bicycle and pedestrian paths.
"It is to bolster the losses that have been suffered by transportation agencies," said Suzanne Smith, executive director of the Sonoma County Transportation Authority. "It is to bolster transportation and provide other services."
Smith said the county agency and its advisory groups began talking about the idea just 10 days ago and there has been no time to conduct public opinion polling. The measure must be presented to county election officials by Friday afternoon fit to qualify for the June 10 ballot.
Given the two-thirds support for the latest transportation measures that passed, including a quarter cent sales tax for road projects and the quarter cent for the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit trains, she said she feels it the registration fee hike would pass.
The measure would require a simple majority approval from voters.
"It's unlikely that there would be a hugely funded campaign, and perhaps there would be opposition, but I don't think it would be well-funded," Smith said.
On Monday directors of the Sonoma County Transportation Authority, however, put off a final vote on the proposal until a special session they called for 1 p.m. Friday, which is four hours before the ballot deadline.
Several agency board members said they wanted to get direction from their city councils, even though they supported the measure.
"It's an inconsequential amount of money," said Petaluma Councilman David Glass, referring to the $10 fee hike.
The transportation agency has the authority to put the measure on the ballot under the terms of legislation signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in October.
Adding the proposal to the ballot will cost between $75,000 and $100,000, Smith said.
Directors said they favored the June ballot over the November election because in November there likely will be many more revenue measures from cities and the state.
Under the proposal, a $10 fee would be tacked on to the cost of registering the nearly 500,000 vehicles in Sonoma County, raising $105 million over 20 years.
In the first year, it would provide more than $4.9 million, of which $3.2 million would be earmarked for for bus transit. That breaks down to $88,000 for Healdsburg, $431,000 for Petaluma, $1.2 million for Santa Rosa and $1.9 million for Sonoma County transit systems.
Bryan Albee, transit manager for the county bus system, said the revenue still would not fully offset the money lost in the past two years because of state cutbacks and fund freezes.
The ballot measure would put $750,000 the first year into the Safe Routes to School program, which encourages children to walk and bike to school and tries to remove the problems that prevent them from doing so safely. There also would be about $600,000 for bicycle and pedestrian paths in the first year of funding.
The proposal garnered support Monday from those attending the meeting.
"We are going to need to double the amount of money we put in to transit over the next 20 years," said Steve Birdlebough of Friends of SMART. "This is a good first step."