San Anselmo seeks 2 tax renewals in November
San Anselmo will seek an increase and extension of a sales tax and renewal of a package tax in November after a community poll found there was support for both.
The results of the survey were presented to city council so officials could determine whether the half-cent sales tax should be increased to 1 cent and how long the term should be.
The council agreed on Tuesday to a 1-cent sales tax, which generates money primarily for roads and infrastructure, with term limits to be completed by voters. A separate package tax to support library services would also be placed on the same ballot. The two existing taxes are due to expire in 2024.
Councilor Eileen Burke said she supported the move because “I think the poll supports it”.
“We have no other means or measure and I trust the pollsters we have hired. I think they did a good job,” she said. “And I also think we have smart citizens, and if they want to end it, they know how to do it, and they will.”
Burke said a sinkhole that closed Center Boulevard last week is an example of unplanned infrastructure projects that require funding.
The survey contacted 335 respondents from a pool of 5,705 registered voters between March 9 and March 15 by phone, text message and email. Godbe Research and TBWBH Strategies were hired under a contract of up to $70,000 to carry out the work.
At three different points in the survey, respondents were asked if they supported raising the tax to 1 cent. The original question got 79% support.
The survey then provided informational statements to assess whether this would affect respondents’ support. For example, a statement read, “If the measure fails, the city will lose $1.2 million a year that San Anselmo residents have relied on to provide essential services since 2013.”
When participants were polled a third time, after the information statements were provided, respondents showed 71% support.
Around 72% of respondents were in favor of a half-cent tax and 61% were in favor of an 18-year-old alternative instead of the indefinite version.
Bryan Godbe, president and co-founder of Godbe Research, said from his experience that respondents prefer the language “till the end by voters” because it “empowers them”, while “18 seems carved in stone”.
Mayor Alexis Fineman said she was troubled by the language “to the end by the voters.”
“It sounds good. It sounds empowering,” Fineman said. “But I think it’s more empowering to know that there’s a built-in checkpoint for all of us to come back to – like we’re doing right now – and take stock of ourselves and what the city works.”
Councilman Brian Colbert said he would consider a ballot measure with a built-in review period, but overall he supported the tax with no set expiry.
Burke said nothing would prevent the council from conducting periodic surveys of the community’s opinion of the tax.
“I have no doubt that if our constituents felt that we were misusing these funds, they would put something on the ballot,” she said. “I trust our residents. I trust us and future councils that if we want to revisit this, we will do so responsibly.
Since respondents also expressed interest in expanding the tax fund to support wildfire protection, the council wanted this included in the wording of the ballot.
The sales tax was approved as Measure D in 2014 with 69.92% support to pay primarily for road repairs. The tax collects about $1.2 million annually. The increase to 1 cent should double this return.
Sales tax will require a simple majority vote.
At the same time, the city is developing a library plot tax renewal proposal that has a built-in 3% annual cost-of-living adjustment. For the 2021-2022 fiscal year, this tax is equivalent to $64.48.
The Library Plot Tax was approved with 75% of the vote in 2010 as a $49 tax for five years.
A tax renewal with an annual adjustment of 3% was approved with 72% of the votes in 2014 for nine years. For the 2021-2022 fiscal year, the tax will collect approximately $304,270. A renewal of the parcel tax would require the approval of two-thirds of voters.
The proposed tax measures will be presented to council in June, City Manager Dave Donery said.