An initiative on the ballot in the City of Yuma would institute a tax specifically to fix the city’s roads, something local residents and business-owners say is badly needed.
This election season city of Yuma residents will vote on a classic Election Day issue – the condition of city streets and roads.
Proposition 411 would raise the city sales tax by one-half of one percent beginning in January. The revenue would go directly to maintenance of existing roads, including fixing potholes and replacing asphalt.
Jeffrey Polston, an accountant and member of Citizen Initiative 411, worked with other Yuma residents to help get the issue on the ballot. Polston says the half-cent sales tax will go into a reserve fund that can only go to fix Yuma roads.
"It can't be swept to buy a new fire truck, or anything along those lines," he says. "It is designated funds that can only be utilized, which is on the ballot, to fix and repair our current roads."
The tax breaks down to about a nickel per ten dollars spent in a business within the city limits. Polston says Yuma needs the money to keep roads from falling apart.
"If this does not pass, I've been told by the city of Yuma that our roads will be in such disrepair that we will never recover," Poston says.
Polston owns a business near Catalina and Arizona Avenue in Yuma. Road conditions near his work are bad. "I feel like I am playing dodgeball with the potholes," he says.
Polston speaks of a friend who replaced her car tires three times in a year due to bad road and street conditions. He counts himself among many residents with concerns about road conditions and driver safety.
"You either pay the sales tax and let's fix the roads and control our own destiny, or your going to be paying all the auto dealerships and local mechanics to fix your cars," Poslton says.
Polston is also concerned about Yuma's future. He says attracting future residents and businesses to the city is harder when roads and streets are noticeably uncared for. "I put it along the lines of, you invite people over to your house to have dinner and you don't clean house," he says.
Poslton was part of a group of residents and business owners who were asked to weigh in on how Yuma could improve its revenues. He says the condition of the city's streets and roads was a common topic. The public involvement may have contributed to the wording or Proposition 411 - the text designates how monies are to be spent. Polston says the only reason he has stayed involved with the issue is because of that wording.
Polston says he has been asked about the interests behind the initiative. For example, whether it was construction companies or others who might profit from the increased city spending who pushed it to the ballot? Poslton says that is not the case, that the issue sprung from meetings between the city and residents, business owners and others who ere concerned about Yuma's future.
Polston says he has heard some pushback on a new tax, but he says similar programs are working in Pima and Maricopa Counties.
"We control these funds," he says. "The state or the county can't come in and take these monies. This is just for the city of Yuma and we can fix it ourselves."