About 42 percent of the city's streets need to be rebuilt or rehabilitated, Mayor Chris Beutler said during a news conference Tuesday, where he challenged criticism about the April 9 ballot proposal to increase the quarter-cent sales tax for six years.
Neighborhood streets, which were neglected during the Great Recession when there was inadequate funding, will be the focus of revenue generated by a quarter-cent increase in the sales tax, Beutler said at the news conference at 11th and D streets, where a number of large potholes have been temporarily patched.
The six-year increase in the sales tax is expected to bring in about $13 million a year.
Finding and shifting $13 million annually in the city budget isn’t reasonable, Beutler said. The city could close one-third of its fire stations to get $13 million from public safety, the mayor said. Or it could close all the public libraries and still be $3 million short, he added.
Shifting the money from other departments could seriously compromise public safety, which is more than half the general fund budget, or obliterate the city's quality of life, Beutler said.
He addressed several wheel tax-related misconceptions that have arisen during the quarter-cent plan discussions and reiterated these facts:
* The wheel tax generates about $19 million of the $65 million in total annual street funding, or about 30 percent.
* For cars, the city's annual wheel tax is $74, a relatively small part of the total annual cost of licensing a car.
* The wheel tax is spent entirely on transportation. None of it can be diverted to other city expenses.