Majority of San Luis Obispo residents support Measure Y

San Luis Obispo voters would support extending an added sales tax if it would help pay for more essential services and keep the city a good place to live, according to a recent poll commissioned by the city.

The survey polled 400 registered voters — 1 percent of the city’s roughly 40,000 residents — to evaluate city services, job performance and support for renewal of Measure Y, the city’s half-cent added sales tax, approved in 2006. It also questioned people on what they think of San Luis Obispo’s quality of life.

The $25,000 scientific survey by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz and Associates was undertaken over five days in May, with an average telephone interview time of 26 minutes. The city conducted a similar survey in 2005. It had a standard margin of error of less than 5 percent.

City Manager Katie Lichtig said the survey was done to get an understanding of community satisfaction with services provided by the city and to gauge progress on major city goals.

The survey results are to be used during long-term financial planning and for the upcoming 2011-2013 budget planning process, she said.

Support for sales tax

Nearly two thirds of those surveyed — 64 percent — said that they would vote to renew Measure Y if it were on the ballot today because the city is in need of the added revenue to continue offering essential city services.

The half-cent added sales tax — which brings about $5.3 million annually to city coffers — will expire unless renewed by voters in 2014.

However, those interviewed said that the binding arbitration decision that awarded sizable raises to police in 2008 could influence them to not renew the sales tax increase.

It was also determined that opinions about renewal of the measure are mainly fixed and that campaign statements made by supporters and opponents are not likely to sway many voters.

The demographics of those polled showed that Democrats, undeclared and moderate voters favored renewal by 3-to-1 but only a small majority of Republicans and conservatives would vote to support it.

The consultants recommended that the city consider placing Measure Y renewal on the ballot in 2012 because there is typically a higher turnout of Democratic voters during a general election.

“This is affirmation that the city is a having an impact on these important priorities,” Lichtig said. “However, the survey provides just a snapshot in time, and the city knows that it has to keep up its current efforts to maintain a high level of citizen satisfaction.”

Good place to live

San Luis Obispo residents are apparently extremely happy to call the city home.

Among those polled, 97 percent rated the city as an excellent or good place to live, up 2 percentage points from 2005.

The number of people who are satisfied with the services provided by city government also grew — to 72 percent from 68 percent five years ago.

Scores improved for the city’s efforts to preserve undeveloped lands, traffic management to reduce congestion and street repair and maintenance.

Though most city departments and programs garnered a high number of “very or somewhat favorable” ratings, overall satisfaction dropped by as much as 10 percentage points from 2005 scores. The city’s natural resources and open-space programs were an exception, growing by three percentage points in garnering high marks.

The need for more affordable housing topped the list of issues facing the city, according to those polled.

Those surveyed also said that the need for stable, good paying jobs in the local area is a serious concern.

Respondents would like to see little or no money cut from most city programs, with the exception of the $64,000 that the city has allocated for the Laguna Lake Golf Course. That funding could be “cut substantially,” according to 36 percent of those surveyed.

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated on Twitter by following @a_corn.