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Paso prepares to raid penny jars

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A half-cent here and there could add up to an extra $2.9 million in annual revenue for the city of Paso Robles to spend on things like roads, police salaries, and recreational activities.

 The Paso Robles City Council met June 19 to unanimously approve the first reading of an ordinance that would raise the city’s sales tax by half of 1 percent for at least the next 12 years.

There was some debate between Mayor Duane Picanco, who wanted city staffers to come back with strict assurances that the money would only be spent on roads, and Councilman Fred Strong, who told New Times that the state already owes Paso Robles money for street repairs from the state fuel excise tax fund. If Sacramento can get its finances under control within the next 12 years and Paso Robles restricts its new funds to road repairs, Strong said the city could end up with more money dedicated for road repairs than it needs.

“The roads are deteriorating, but we don’t want to gold plate them,” Strong said.

Picanco called that scenario a “pipe dream,” and said he wouldn’t support the ordinance if the money could be spent on things like staff salaries.

A second reading, which is expected to include options for more restrictive language or an advisory committee to steer spending priorities, is scheduled for July 3. A super majority of four council members will be required to approve the ordinance and put a measure on November’s general election ballot. If the citizens of Paso Robles pass the measure by a simple majority, Atascadero would be the only municipality in San Luis Obispo County without a similar sales tax.

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