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City mulls future of roads following election results

The City of Yuma had one item on the Nov. 6 general election ballot: Proposition 411, known as the Fix Our Roads initiative. The proposition would have put in place a half-cent sales tax to bring in revenue utilized solely to repair and maintain the City's roadways.

The City issues the following statement following the proposition’s apparent defeat.

A group of concerned citizens came forward to bring this proposition to Yuma voters. They spent a lot of their time and effort determining the best way to fix a major problem: our roads. That problem was made worse by repeated state sweeps of Highway User Revenue Funds – fuel taxes paid by motorists here and meant to be returned here – as well as steep cost increases for road materials.

The City conducted a complete streets assessment that found annual road spending would need to be around $13 million to handle the City’s current street issues. The City only has a budget of roughly $3 million annually to fix them. Understanding this, these citizens proposed a sales tax that would have raised just enough to cover this difference, and which could only be used for road maintenance and replacement.

As things stand now, it appears that effort has been unsuccessful.

The City had hoped for 411’s passage, particularly since it came from citizens. The City of Yuma is going to do the best we can with available funds, but at this point it looks like we will have to begin making difficult decisions as to which roadways we will continue to maintain, and which ones to let go. There is not enough money to maintain them all. This course was not our preference.

During the election cycle, the City became aware of conversations circulating though the community. Unfortunately, the state regulates and strictly limits what kind of communication we can have with voters once a measure qualifies for a ballot, and we were unable to address these issues directly.

One common misperception we found was that people believed that funds collected for one purpose could be used instead for others. For example, taking 2 percent hospitality tax money and using it to fix roads. This is illegal. Another misperception was that current road funding would be moved and used elsewhere. As these existing funds are earmarked by the voters for roads, this also would be illegal; those funds cannot be spent anywhere else. These accounts are independently audited by an outside agency every year to ensure funds are spent appropriately.

We have communicated this message consistently over the years through a variety of mediums such as news releases, radio and digital media. On the plus side, Proposition 411 did receive a significantly higher percentage of votes than a similar measure proposed two years earlier that would have addressed both the road issue and issues with public safety funding. However, that increase was not enough for passage.

The City appreciates the efforts of those who took the time to fully understand the issue. We look forward to future opportunities to address the lack of roadway maintenance funding.