Sonoma County transportation planners on Monday revived a proposed $10 increase in vehicle registration fees which could be used for transit, bike lanes, a school safety program or fixing potholes.
A final decision on whether to put the fee proposal on the November ballot and how the money might be spent will be made in May.
That will allow the members of the Sonoma County Transportation Authority time to get direction from their individual city councils on whether to move forward with the vote.
"It gives us direction, but it doesn't give you direction," Jake Mackenzie, SCTA chairman and a Rohnert Park councilman, told the transportation authority staff. "We will come back in May."
Most of the SCTA members generally supported the idea, particularly if the spending plan was tied to programs that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
"If it is fixing potholes, I am not there," said Valerie Brown, chairman of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. "If it is Safe Routes to Schools, transit, bike paths ... I'm there."
Supervisor Shirlee Zane said transit is vital for those who have the quietest voices in the debate, such as seniors, the disabled, students, minorities and the poor.
"We need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to have better transit," Zane said.
Petaluma Councilman David Glass, however, argued for a funding formula that would allow the individual cities to have the flexibility to use some of the money as they wish, "so the person who is asked to pay this fee could see that there is some value."
"The cost is $8,500 a year to operate a vehicle, so a $10 fee is inconsequential in the operation of a vehicle, but not in asking the voters to pay it," Glass said.
Supervisor Paul Kelley reiterated his opposition to the fee, which will be competing in November with many other requests for taxes and fees and he believes will not be viewed favorably by voters.
"Regardless of the size, it appears to be nickeling and diming the public to death," Kelley said.
Healdsburg Councilman Mike McGuire urged there be a survey taken of voters, at a cost of $25,000 to $30,000, before adopting a spending plan.
"It will be important that folks know what they are voting for, we need to be as detailed as possible to where the money will be spent," McGuire said.
When the measure was debated in March, proponents cited the sharp cuts in state funding of transit, the need to improve safety of children walking to school and bike and pedestrian paths that provide alternate forms of transportation.
Opponents, however, felt the measure was being rushed to the ballot and there were questions about how the money would be spent. Others rejected it as being another tax increase in tough financial times.
The proposal failed on a 5-6 vote, with seven votes needed to pass.
A $10 increase in the fee would raise $105 million over 20 years.
In the first year, the previous proposal had allocated $3.63 million for Sonoma County, Santa Rosa, Healdsburg and Petaluma bus systems, $398,729 for the Safe Routes to Schools program and $697,775 for bicycle paths.
Legislation that was signed into law last year allows transportation authorities to go to the ballot with the registration fee requests, which only need a majority to pass.