City seeks info for revenue streams

PASO ROBLES — Officials with the City of Paso Robles are reaching out to the public to gauge support for new revenue streams.

Language for a new local sales tax or bond measure to be placed on the November 2018 ballot could be crafted based on feedback from a survey recently commissioned to quiz registered voters in the City.

Assistant city manager Jim Cogan said the firm FM3 Research has been awarded a contract “not to exceed $25,000,” to conduct a telephone poll of between 300-400 voters at whatever contact number they may have filed when they registered. San Luis Obispo County Clerk-Recorder Tommy Gong said his office does indeed make such information available to research agencies. Though, he hastened to add, their records are not the only source of email and telephone numbers that campaigns and pollsters have access to.

FM3, formally known as Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates, Inc., has offices flanking the Central Coast in Oakland and Los Angeles.  On their website they further explain that, “though our bread-and-butter may still be political campaigns, we also conduct all types of general population surveys.”

“We’re looking at going to the [Paso Robles City] Council on June 19 with all the options so we want to be able to offer good information.”

The dollar amount for the contract is within the discretionary spending limit of the city manager’s office and the information will need to be collected before June 11 to be ready for a staff report due the evening of June 15, Cogan added.

“Residents want to know we’re spending their money wisely, of course,” he said. “It’s a small community. There’s no need for anyone to be surprised if they hear about polling taking place over the next week,” he said.

Since residents volunteering themselves to take a survey on a website or other platform would bias the scientific veracity of polling data, only those called directly will be able to answer the questions directly, but public comment will be encouraged on the Tuesday the Council will hear the item.

There is already some element of self selection in the process, as respondents could be on the phone for up to 20 minutes.

Questions to consider include the public’s thoughts on a quarter percent State sales tax that is set to expire this year and could be replaced locally or the extension of an existing bond which has historically been used for road way and infrastructure funding.

“What’s important about sales tax, especially in tourism heavy economy like Paso Robles, is that tourism,” Cogan emphasized. “Roughly half of sale taxes are going to be paid by people coming from outside the community.”

Several of San Luis Obispo County’s incorporated cities have followed that model with a half-percent sales tax over the last decade with voters largely willing to tax themselves and their neighbors from nearby communities, but in 2016 a countywide tax proposed to support transportation projects failed to garner the 66.7 percent needed to pass.

That cost the city what would have been it’s cut, an estimated $13.9 million over the nine years, City Manager Tom Frutchey told local media at the time.

Even further back, in 2012, Paso Robles voters approved Measure E-12, asking for a half-cent sales tax increase for the general fund.  The figure widely circulated at that time was and expected $3 million annually for 12 years with a companion measure to direct money specifically to roads.

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