Tuesday, September 23, 2014

City poll finds not enough support for parcel tax

From page A1 | June 26, 2014 |

Results of a recent city poll to find out residents’ support for another city parcel tax showed any new tax proposed would likely fail by a wide margin if the election were held at the time of the survey.

The city hired a research consultant to conduct a series of 504 separate telephone surveys from June 12 through June 16. The margin of error for parcel tax questions is 4.9 percent. Godbe Research, the consultant, said the survey sample represented Davis voters in terms of age, gender, ethnicity and political party type.

The city needs two-thirds of the vote to pass a parcel tax, or 66.7 percent. It has considered up to a $200 per year parcel tax for the November ballot. While the city has deliberated over a tax up to a 30-year-term, the City Council has focused on 10-20 years.

“After hearing a summary of a parcel tax measure that replicates the sample language that might be placed on the ballot, 47 percent of the voters surveyed indicated initial support (29 percent ‘definitely yes’ and 18 percent ‘probably yes’) without any information other than the potential ballot question for a $149 parcel tax for 15 years,” Godbe Research reported.

Initial opposition was not far behind the support figure, at 44 percent for what Godbe called “strong opposition” making those results a concern, Godbe Research said.

But details of these survey questions revealed some wiggle room.

The questions asked if a $149 parcel tax should be passed “to fund maintenance, repair, rehabilitation and replacement of parks, streets and roads, greenbelts, bike paths, swimming pools and recreational facilities be adopted?”

When asked about a $99 parcel tax, “support for the measure increased to 58 percent” while the initial opposition for the idea dropped to 34 percent, still far short of a two-thirds majority. Testing an only six-year parcel tax, support was 57 percent.

Asking about specific projects in the city, bike path repair outranked every other project for support, while maintenance and enhancement of city parks was slightly behind that, and streets and roads was third.

A new sports complex drew the most opposition along with a new 50-meter swimming pool.

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Deputy City Manager Kelly Stachowicz cautioned the council that the results were a snapshot in time they could consider, taken just after the June 3 election when Measure O was passed.

The council is divided on including rehabilitation of swimming pools in the parcel tax. On one hand, it’s a risk of displeasing the electorate, which is largely seen as supporting things more widely believed to be more essential, like paving streets and roads. On the other hand, a dedicated campaign could change many voters’ minds and the pool constituency could campaign for the city.

Mayor Pro Tem Dan Wolk supports the pool concept, while Councilman Brett Lee is opposed to funding recreational items.

“I’m not sure I want to pick one recreational user group over another,” Lee said.

Wolk said a campaign is needed for any city parcel tax according to the Godbe poll.

“The poll data shows that even a roads measure is going to have to work to get a two-thirds majority,” he said.

Councilwoman Rochelle Swanson said the polling is so close to the June 3 election that it is probably skewed, while Councilman Lucas Frerichs said he would favor putting off a tax measure from November to spring 2015.

The council made no decision Tuesday night, but if it is going to go for the November ballot, it needs to make one by July 15.

— Reach Dave Ryan at dryan@davisenterprise.net or call 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @davewritesnews



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