Pismo Beach to poll voters on support of sales-tax increase

clambert@thetribunenews.comFebruary 20, 2014 

An aerial view of downtown Pismo Beach.

JOE JOHNSTON — jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

With its half-cent sales tax measure set to expire March 31, 2015, Pismo Beach officials are trying to determine whether residents might support continuing it.

The Pismo Beach City Council this week unanimously voted to contract with Newport Beach-based Probolsky Research to conduct polling and research of local voters at a cost of about $17,700.

Pismo Beach Mayor Shelly Higginbotham said during Tuesday’s meeting that the polling will help the city decide whether to place a measure on the November general election ballot to renew the half-cent sales tax, known as Measure C.

The tax, which passed in June 2008 by about 300 votes, raised the local sales tax rate to 7.75 percent from 7.25 percent for six-and-a-half years.

In the past five years, the half-cent tax has raised about $5.2 million and is expected to bring in about $7.8 million by June 2015, according to a current issue of the city’s Clam Chronicle.

The money has been spent on high-priority projects including street paving, sidewalk improvements and rehabilitation of the city’s pier. Future budgeted projects include drainage studies and additional paving projects.

Without the tax, the city would have to pay for such projects using money from its general fund, find other ways to generate additional dollars or allow “the city’s infrastructure to deteriorate, which could lead to more costly repairs in the future and an impact of property values and quality of life,” the Chronicle states.

City Council members will need to decide by the summer whether to place a measure on the fall ballot. They might also debate whether to place a sunset date on the tax or try to make it permanent.

The polling will be completed in mid-March. The firm will conduct a 35-question survey of 300 likely voters, according to a city staff report.

The calls will take about 16 minutes each — a point that Pismo Beach resident Paul Jones, the city’s appointed chaplain, brought up under public comment.

“I’m just amazed at 16 minutes sitting there holding a cell phone and answering 35 questions,” he said. “But I trust it will come out for its best.”

Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated by following @SouthCountyBeat on Twitter.

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