DOWNEY – Hoping to gauge voters’ willingness to support a citywide sales tax increase this year, the Downey City Council tapped a consulting agency last week to conduct polling and surveys with residents.
In a 4-1 decision, with Mayor Alex Saab dissenting, councilmembers agreed last Tuesday to enter phase two with Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates, an Los Angeles-based firm that will oversee a survey to test the feasibility of placing a successful tax revenue measure on the November 2016 ballot.
According to city staff, an initial survey was requested in early December for $9,500. The second phase, which costs an additional $17,250, will cover the cost of telephone interviews that will ask registered voters how they feel about funding a sales tax increase.
“We also want to know what citizens think about the parks, the streets, and city services,” said Yvette Abich Garcia, Downey’s city attorney. “Are we putting a revenue measure on the ballot? We’re not there yet, but we want the voters’ opinions.”
City officials say demands for a parks overhaul and the need for increased public safety -- mainly additional police officers – is weighing heavy on Downey’s attempts to keep a balanced budget. Raising the sales tax by half a percent for the next 20 years could pour millions of dollars into the city’s coffers.
However, the Downey Unified School District’s Measure O (2014) and Measure D (2002) are already costing local homeowners $248 million and $65 million respectively. Add that to the $350 million bond passed in 2012 to upgrade facilities at Cerritos College and city officials are well-aware of tax weariness.
Nonetheless, Garcia believes the survey is worth the money whether the city chooses to proceed with a tax increase measure or not.
“The polling is still valuable and can be very helpful to prioritize the city council’s goals,” she said.