Four years ago, a survey found most Cloverdale voters opposed taxing themselves to help bail out their city government.
But has sentiment changed enough that they might now support some form of new tax to help the cash-strapped city?
The City Council at its June 26 meeting authorized spending $30,750 for consultants to help gauge sentiment for some form of tax or, alternatively, a reduction in services.
"There is only so much money and Cloverdale is struggling financially," Mayor Joe Palla said last week. "This gives the opportunity to see what people in the community feel is important."
The telephone poll of registered voters will try to ascertain the level of satisfaction with city services, ranging from public safety to transportation, and general government, said Interim City Manager Paul Cayler.
"Cloverdale has cut very deeply and has not done anything to enhance revenues," Cayler said. He cited job cuts that eliminated 25 percent of the city workforce. The survey will try to measure whether "there is further capacity for reducing expenditures and services," or if there is interest in some type of revenue-generating measure, Cayler said.
But City Councilman Mike Maacks said the city should not be pondering a tax increase, especially since the council just raised water rates by 55 percent.
He was the sole council member to vote against hiring the Lew Edwards Group to conduct the voter survey.
"I don't think it's right at this point to raise taxes, not knowing what we're going to have coming in," he said, referring to property tax revenues that will be updated as early as September.
The city of 8,665 residents is primarily a bedroom community heavily reliant on property taxes, with comparatively little sales and hotel bed tax revenues.
The city's property tax revenues are down about 20 percent from five years ago. Sales tax revenue has also dropped, though it is now on a slow rebound.
Over the past four years as the recession took hold, Cloverdale went from a high of more than 50 workers down to 39. City employees have had no raises in five years.
Property values that the revenues are based on have been slower to bounce back in Cloverdale, Palla said. And the loss of redevelopment funds "took a bad situation and made it worse," he said.
This fiscal year's $5.7 million general fund is projected to have a $267,000 deficit and if the trend continues, the city could have a $2.3 million deficit by 2017-18, the council was informed in May.
Long-term, city officials say something needs to be done to address the structural imbalance in the budget.
Besides cutting services, possibilities include a sales tax increase, parcel tax, or reinstatement of a utility tax that was allowed to expire in 2006. But all of those would require voter approval and could not be on the ballot until at least November 2014, Palla said.
He said the voter survey will likely be completed in the next two to three months and the results presented to the council.
You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or firstname.lastname@example.org.