Survey shows support for sales tax extension in San Luis Obispo

San Luis Obispo voters remain in favor of extending an added sales tax to pay for essential city services, according to a recent survey commissioned by the city, but support for it has declined over the past year.

Of the local registered voters asked in a telephone survey, 59 percent said they would likely support renewing Measure Y, the city’s half-cent added sales tax approved by San Luis Obispo voters in 2006. In 2010, a similar survey found that 64 percent of registered voters polled said they would vote yes.

“The prospects for renewing Measure Y are good, but definitive support for Measure Y has fallen since May 2010,” according to a report summarizing the survey.

The City Council voted 4-1 Tuesday night, with Councilman Dan Carpenter dissenting, to direct city staff to continue evaluating placing the extension of the half-cent sales tax on the ballot in 2012.

That’s ahead of its planned expiration; voters could also be asked to renew the tax increase in 2014 if city officials ultimately decide against a 2012 vote. The added sales tax brings about $5.3 million annually to city coffers.

If voters do not renew the tax increase, San Luis Obispo’s sales tax would revert to what the state sales tax rate is in April 2015. The current statewide rate is 7.25, which sets the current local sales tax at 7.75 percent.

City leaders are considering putting the renewal on the ballot in November, when voter turnout is expected to be higher because it is a presidential election year.

In dissenting, Carpenter said he wanted the city to wait the full eight years of the current increase before an extension is put on the ballot to give voters enough time to evaluate the city’s use of the added sales tax revenue.

The $25,000 survey by Fairbank, Maslin, Maulin, Metz and Associates done over three days in late October and early November targeted 400 randomly selected San Luis Obispo registered voters.

The survey also found that people said they needed more information to decide how they would vote.

The survey also asked registered voters how they felt the city was doing in providing services and what they think of San Luis Obispo’s quality of life.

The majority of those polled — 71 percent — said the city is doing a good job of providing services. And nearly all of those asked, 97 percent, said the city was a good or excellent place to live.

The City Council has until Aug. 10 to call an election for ballot measures to qualify for the general election.