A new survey of Cloverdale voters shows just barely enough support for a city-wide utility tax that could help the city dig out of its financial hole.
Despite being informed that Cloverdale is projected to have annual deficits of up to $1 million for the next five years, only a narrow majority said they would approve a utility tax to help out.
About 52 percent of respondents indicated they would vote “yes” for a ballot measure establishing a 3 percent utility users tax.
Although that exceeds the majority threshold to pass such a measure, it is within the survey's 5.7 percent margin of error, so support is questionable.
Consultants said the likelihood of Cloverdale voters taxing themselves improved since the last survey in 2009, but “methodical, proactive community engagement is necessary to build consensus toward a viable measure.”
Consultants recommended no measure be placed on the ballot earlier than November 2014.
The findings from the $30,750 survey were presented this week to the City Council, although it prompted little discussion among council members.
City officials are hoping to get a clearer picture of the $5.7 million general fund budget by next month before recommending any course of action.
Even if property taxes — the main source of revenue — show signs of improvement as anticipated, Mayor Joe Palla said Friday, “I don't anticipate the property tax rates to go up as fast as they went down. Cloverdale was hit harder than most cities within the county.”
And the city essentially has no emergency reserves.
Palla said a utility tax that was allowed to expire seven years ago generated in the neighborhood of $250,000 to $300,000 per year.
If reinstated, he said it's uncertain which utilities might be taxed — whether it be PG&E, cable TV, telephone, water and sewer bills.
“We have not had that conversation,” he said.