San Jose officials build support for $750 million bond measure

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San Jose, California, voters could be asked to support a $750 million general obligation bond this fall to help pay for road and public safety projects.

But as city officials weigh whether to go forward with the measure, they’re trying to determine if there is enough voter support to get the two-thirds supermajority needed for passage.

City consultants plan to poll voters in the Bay Area city of a million residents through June and July before taking a proposal to the City Council on Aug. 7 for a vote. That’s only three days before the deadline to get a measure on the November ballot.

San Jose has a $1.4 billion unfunded infrastructure backlog and needs to spend $112 million a year to maintain existing roads and facilities, according to a May 22 report to the City Council.

“We have been struggling to find a funding source,” Councilman Donald Rocha said in an interview. “This one of our glaring issues our residents have shared with us very politely: They’re frustrated with the state of our roads.”

A poll conducted in late April and early May showed majority support for a bond measure but not the supermajority needed.

Only 62% would vote yes on a bond measure to raise money for roads and public safety projects while 30% would vote no, polling consultant FM3 said in its report at the May meeting. The rest were undecided.

Iinfrastructure projects received stronger support with 72% agreeing more funding was needed, Curtis Below, partner and chief operating officer of FM3 told the council.

Four different amounts for a bond measure were polled, from between $150 million to $750 million, but support remained steady in the 60% range, he said.

The poll also measured support for different project lists that included fixing potholes, upgrading police and fire facilities, and repairing parks, playgrounds and libraries. Roads and public safety projects ranked highest.

Among those who said they would oppose it, the biggest reason given was they felt taxes were already too high in the city, according to the poll. Others felt the money would be wasted or not spent properly.

According to a city staff report, the average taxpayer –based on a single-family home assessed at $500,000 – would pay $127.57 a year with a $750 million bond.

At the May meeting, the council agreed to have city staff put together a draft list of specific projects and do more polling to test more focused language for projects such as roads, bridges and overpasses.

Mayor Sam Liccardo said he and the other council members will need to build support among community groups and residents for the measure in the meantime.

“We need to clearly communicate the need for infrastructure improvements to our residents,” he said at the meeting. “They see it every day but they may not see how essential a fire station is for emergency response or they may not appreciate that the $1 in capital we spent today may save many dollars in maintenance and repair.”

But with support under the needed 67%, “this is a heavy lift if we’re going to do it,” Liccardo said.

Rocha said it’s worth pursuing and that he and other council members need to make it clear to voters this is an opportunity to make improvements that residents want to see happen

“They know there are no other options,” he said. “If we are clear and blunt with them, they know it’s this or nothing.”

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General obligation bonds Bond elections City of San Jose, CA California