Sonoma County transportation planners Monday supported a proposal to put a $10 vehicle registration fee increase on the November ballot to fund buses, bike paths and school safety programs.
"We are voting here to give voters a chance to make this decision," said Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane.
The Sonoma County Transportation Authority board also supported giving the lion's share, 68 percent, to the Sonoma County, Santa Rosa, Petaluma and Healdsburg bus systems.
The proposal would also allocate 15 percent for Safe Routes to Schools programs, 12 percent for bicycle and pedestrian paths and 5 percent for administrative costs.
If the fee passes in November, it would raise $105 million over 20 years.
The board rejected using any of the funds for road maintenance after some members noted the Obama Administration's stimulus funds in Sonoma County targeted roads, but not transit.
"I want to remind everyone that the majority of greenhouse gases are emitted from transportation, and fixing potholes doesn't do anything to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or help safety for kids and bicyclists," Zane said.
Petaluma Councilman David Glass, however, said his council was adamant some of the money be returned to the individual cities, and he didn't believe voters would approve the measure if it didn't.
"There will be a lot of concern in Petaluma when people put out messages that hundreds of thousands of dollars are going out to the region without any coming back to the city," Glass said.
Zane said, however, that Petaluma stands to get $402,000 a year for its bus system and is also served by Sonoma County Transit, which would receive $1.7 million a year.
Other smaller cities, such as Cloverdale and Sonoma, were supportive even though there was concern that they would not see the benefit as much as larger cities.
The agency's staff will bring back a ballot measure at the June meeting, with some alternatives for having either a sunset clause or a periodic update of the spending plan.
A final decision by the board is not expected until July. The deadline to qualify for the November ballot is Aug. 6.
The measure passed on a 10-2 vote, with Supervisor Paul Kelley and Glass opposing it.
Suzanne Smith, SCTA executive director, said that San Mateo County already has the registration fee increase in effect, and all of the other Bay Area counties are likely to have a vehicle fee measure on the ballot, too.
When the measure was debated by the SCTA board in March for the June ballot, the proposal failed on a 5-6 vote, with seven votes needed to pass.
It would have raised $3.63 million for the Sonoma County, Santa Rosa, Healdsburg and Petaluma bus systems, $398,729 for the Safe Routes to Schools program and $697,775 for pedestrian and bicycle paths annually.
Opponents felt that the measure was being rushed to the ballot and had questions about how the money would be spent. Others rejected it as being another tax increase in tough financial times.
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