The council now knows what it is up against and a public opinion survey that the city commissioned came back showing that the parcel tax fell well short of the two-thirds needed to pass it and, in some cases, support fell below 50 percent.
Councilmember Brett Lee continued to push for a $50 per year parcel tax that he thought could pass this fall. He warned the council not to conflate “need to have” with “nice to have” and asked the swimming community to wait six months and bring back the ballot measure for the pools in the spring.
The overwhelming sentiment by the council, however, was to bring back a discussion on July 1, looking to put a measure on the ballot more toward the spring than fall.
In a June 24 Memorandum to the City, the Godbe Research found overall that “residents have a highly positive opinion of the City of Davis, though satisfaction levels have decreased somewhat since the last Resident Satisfaction Survey in 2007.” They find, “An overwhelming majority of respondents are satisfied with the job the City of Davis is doing to provide city services.”
However, “The survey results also indicate less than 50% support for a parcel tax for the November 2014 election cycle.” They write, “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% “definitely yes” and 18% “probably yes”) without any information other than the potential ballot question for a $149 parcel tax for 15 years. Furthermore, strong opposition was at the 44 percent level, which is a concern for any measure needing two-thirds (66.7%) to pass.”
Support for the measure increased to 58 percent at the lowest rate tested ($99) and opposition decreased to 34 percent. The 58 percent figure mirrored the support for the sales tax.
The city staff presented three potential funding scenarios which included various options and levels of support. The City’s Financial Advisor Mark Northcross made a critical early point – before we were even presented with the polling data – suggesting that the city’s best approach was to pick a level of funding that the voters will pass at the ballot box and then let the financial team figure out how to bond against it.
Councilmember Lee said that we have a long list of needs in this community, but we are not ready to put together a comprehensive list of needs for November. “I do think that we have talked about the road issue quite substantially, I think we are ready to put a roads parcel tax before the voters in November,” he said. “I think a parcel tax in the neighborhood of $50 a year over 30 years, would generate about $20 million according to Mark Northcross, $20 million allows us to frontload the road repairs and make a very significant investment.”
He argued that, at $50, it is small enough to leave room for further community discussion about a future comprehensive package of “nice to haves” to come before the council in the spring.
“I don’t believe that (discussion) can happen in time for November,” he stated. “And I don’t think we really want to mix the need to have with nice to have.” He added, “I would ask that the swimming community be willing to spend an additional six months… allow us to move forward with a roads bond, a very small, modest one, money only for roads, and then work together with other community groups to bring the nice to have ballot measure in the spring.”
Mayor Pro Tem Dan Wolk, “I brought up this idea last time of this Renew Davis concept that we need to think beyond simply our roads into other critical infrastructure that really form the lifeblood of this community.”
He has concerns that the polling shows that even a roads measure will have difficulty getting to two-thirds. “My concern about splitting them is that we’ll have had Measure O, we’ll have this parcel tax measure if we decide to do this roads one in November, then we’d be going back to the community for another revenue measure, conceivably just as large, I worry particularly about the community.”
Rochelle Swanson said, “I wasn’t talking about multiple measures… I think our community is burnt out.” She added, “When I was talking about doing it in early spring, I really mean early spring. So that we can have another polling done when we are more than 24 hours away from another Measure O vote. I do believe that that had an impact on it.”
She added, “I think that people who voted no in that poll after seeing the budget that passed and the commitment from staff that they are going to continue to look for another $750,000 in savings, I think that we need that break.”
Lucas Frerichs would add, “Timing for me, I’m not sure that November is really the best time. I think that a mail ballot in the spring is what I’m leaning towards.”
Council will make their final decision next week on July 1 when Robb Davis joins the council, but right now the passage of a parcel tax is very much in doubt, given the polling. The make up of that tax – whether it is a roads-only or a roads and pools tax – is still up in the air. And the council seems to be leaning away from November and toward Spring 2015.
—David M. Greenwald reporting