PASO ROBLES — The City of Paso Robles is considering a sales tax measure to address projects, programs, and services that were delayed or cut over the past 10 years.
Paso Robles is proposing a general revenue measure, which would require a majority of voter support, as opposed to a special revenue measure, which would require support from two-thirds of voters.
In order to determine local sentiment on the matter, the City hired an experienced polling firm to conduct phone and email surveys of residents to determine the likelihood of voter support for a 1 percent sales tax measure on the November ballot and what residents feel should be the top priorities for spending resulting funds.
Seven hundred and twenty likely Paso Robles voters gave their input through phone and online surveys. Sixty-four percent of respondents agreed that the City needs additional funding to meet the expectations of residents and 59 percent of respondents said that they would support a 1 percent measure in November. The survey has a 4 percent margin of error.
Residents also offered suggestions for funding priorities — 87 percent of respondents rated road improvements as the City’s top need. In addition, respondents identified job retention/creation efforts (72 percent), fire protection (71 percent), and disaster/wildfire preparedness (66 percent), as the community’s other three top needs.
The polling found that a substantial number of citizens are not aware of current challenges the City faces. For example, the City’s current pavement management index (PCI) rates Paso’s streets and roads at a 54 out of 100. Even with the .5 percent sales tax measure approved by the City’s voters in 2012, which has generated an average of $5 million a year and is in addition to the money the City is already spending on roads, the PCI index is not improving.
In order to get to a more acceptable rating of 84, the City would have to spend $25 million a year for the next 10 years.
Similarly, most residents are not aware that the City has only two fire engines on duty at any one time, and in 2017, there were 700 instances where both engines were on calls, and would have been unavailable if another 9-1-1 call came in.
Residents feel it is critical for local taxes to be spent in Paso Robles and that the measure must include a requirement of citizen oversight. That would mean that the language of any eventual ballot measure would make it clear that the funds could not be diverted by the state or other bodies and that a citizens’ tax oversight committee would review the budget and help determine how the funds would be spent.
At its last meeting, the Paso Robles City Council received a report on the survey results and directed staff to conduct additional outreach throughout the community to solicit feedback regarding the possibility of placing a sales tax measure on the November ballot.
The City is conducting a public forum and presentations to local service organizations prior to any City Council action, which is anticipated to take place on July 17.
Paso Robles residents are encouraged to attend the informational forum scheduled for 6 p.m. on Monday, July 16, in the Flamson Middle School Multi-Purpose Room. For more information about this effort, contact the City Manager’s office at 805-237-3888 or [email protected]