Survey Shows Support For Culver Sales Tax
In a presentation to the City Council preceding the budget hearings on Monday night the results of an independently conducted survey showed that Culver City voters are largely in support of a ballot measure to create a half cent sales tax to raise funds for essential city services.
The survey was conducted by the public opinion gathering firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz, and Associates (FM3) between May 22 and May 24, via landline and cell phone interviews with 400 Culver City registered voters deemed likely to cast a ballot in the November 2012 Presidential election. Rick Sklarz of FM3 presented the survey results to the Council.
Culver City voters, according to this survey, are highly positive about the direction Culver City is taking, with 78 percent approving of the direction, 9 percent disapproving, and 13 percent undecided or not available for comment.
“We do a lot of these surveys and Culver City stands in stark contrast to how other cities feel about their [direction],” said Sklarz.
Reasons for the optimism include the revitalization of the city in recent years, safe neighborhoods, good schools, and the extension of the Expo Line to Culver City.
On a list of major concerns, the state budget deficit is uppermost on the minds of Culver City voters.
Two thirds of the voters believe the city needs additional funds to maintain city services but only one in five say the city has a “great” need. It is possible that voters are not fully aware of the financial problems of Culver City.
Presenting factual information about city finances and services does seem to raise voter concern about the survival of the essential city services they depend on.
Survey participants were given a 75-word statement as a sample of how the ballot measure might read. It read in part:
“To offset state budget cuts, preserve quality neighborhoods and ensure effective 911 emergency response services………..fixing potholes/streets; maintaining parks, community centers, storm drains…..and other city services, shall the Culver City sales tax be raised one-half cent, requiring annual independent financial audits, all funds used locally, and no money for Sacramento?”
This statement elicited support from seven in ten voters who heard it. They said they would vote yes on such a measure if it were on the ballot today.
The votes in favor spread across age, ethnic, gender, and party affiliation lines. Voters were most likely to support the measure with the knowledge that it requires public disclosure and audits and that the state cannot touch the funds.
Support for such a measure dropped off considerably when voters were asked to support a three-quarter cent sales tax. Support increased with voters when given more information.
Council member Jim Clarke wondered if voters would give priority to the ballot measure in November because the measure would be “down ballot,” that is, at the end of a long list of measures and candidates in a national as well as local election.
“We’ve been accustomed to long ballots,” said Sklarz. “But how to make sure it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle? It’s specific to the local community. This measure stands out as a priority to your voters—so long as they know it’s there.”
Meghan Sahli-Wells asked about the survey’s accuracy rate. “More than 90 percent accurate,” replied Sklarz.
City Manager John Nachbar supplied the Council with a calendar showing the timeline for voting on the inclusion of a sales tax ballot measure for November’s election. After the budget is presented and approved, there will be several meetings to discuss the measure (some of them off-site) until the end of July. With a couple of Council members probably absent in late July/early August, the measure may be voted upon in the first week of August.