Turlock residents are willing to pay more taxes to get the City services they want, according to a recent poll.
A majority of Turlock residents would support a 1 cent sales tax increase to help fund City services, according to a poll commissioned by the Turlock City Council and conducted Feb. 3 through 9.
Mike Madrid of Grassroots Lab presented the results of the poll that included 525 interviews with a random sample of Turlock residents likely to vote in November 2020. Interviews were conducted online, by cell phone and landline phone, and in English and Spanish, according to Madrid.
The findings were a little surprising as a vast majority of those interviewed supported a tax measure, and at a higher rate.
“It’s pretty apparent that the residents of this community are seeing visibly that there needs to be some sort of investment. They feel it’s day to day and they believe that their quality of life, quality of Turlock life, will improve if there was an investment made at the 1 cent level,” said Madrid.
The poll also asked residents about what they thought were the most serious issues facing Turlock.
Homelessness was the most serious problem facing the city according to 84% of those surveyed, followed by the conditions of neighborhood streets (73%), crime (62%) and cost of housing (49%).
“This is not uncommon. In the last three years, I have seen probably 90 percent of the cities in California suggesting the same issue on homelessness. This is not a Turlock specific problem; this is very much a California problem. Every community in the state, or virtually every community in the state, is struggling with this issue in the same way. But Turlock residents are no different,” said Madrid.
The question asked in the survey was:
“Turlock Public Safety/Community Services Measure. Shall the measure to maintain police/fire protection, emergency medical response, anti-gang/drug problems; keep parks/public areas safe/clean; address homelessness/vagrancy; repair streets, potholes, sidewalks; retain/attract local businesses; maintain youth/after-school and senior programs, other general services, by establishing a 1 cent sales tax providing approximately $15,000,000 annually until ended by voters, requiring audits, citizens oversight, public disclosure of spending, all funds used locally, be adopted?”
The wording of the question, according to Madrid, is one his firm uses across the state to encompass a number of issues a sales tax measure could go towards at the city level.
“What we’re trying to do is articulate to the residents of a community the services that they’ve delineated as being most important and we try to do it in a way that is as explanatory as possible without violating a threshold of suggesting that these issues will be specifically funded,” said Madrid.
When asked what the top priorities for the measure should be, respondents stated that public disclosure of spending was most important at 89%, followed by:
— Maintaining 911 emergency medical response services (87%);
— Requiring all funds by used locally (86%);
— Addressing homelessness and vagrancy (85%);
— Repairing deteriorating streets and potholes (85%);
— Maintaining police protection (83%);
— Recruiting and retaining experienced police officers (83%);
— Maintaining fire protection (81%); and
— Maintaining emergency medical technicians (79%).
Interestingly, those surveyed were more supportive of a 1 cent sales tax measure than they were of a ¾ cent or ½ cent sales tax measure.
“They’re not looking to do it half-way. They’re not looking to do it part way. They believe the problem will be solved if they invest at the higher level,” said Madrid.
“Your city has undergone some pretty explosive growth since the 80s and 90s — 50% plus in terms of population — without any new revenue streams, that’s remarkable,” he continued.
Council members Becky Arellano, Nicole Larson, Andrew Nosrati and Gill Esquer were in favor of moving forward with having the city manager and city attorney draft a Turlock sales tax measure for the November 2020 ballot.
“We all decided we wanted to lead with fiscal responsibility and this is a piece of that. Acknowledging that we lowered our standard of the city consciously so that we could do what we could afford and asked the public if they’re okay with that and the answer is no. They deserve more,” said Larson.
Mayor Amy Bublak did not comment on the results of the poll, but in earlier Council meetings she has voiced opposition to any type of new tax and has advocated for exploring the possibility of outsourcing or sharing resources to cut expenses now and not just wait for new revenue sources.
If the Council approves a sales tax measure, it would then have to go before the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors.