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Citizens learn survey results

Susan Wood, Tahoe Daily Tribune

About 50 people gathered at the South Lake Tahoe Senior Center Tuesday heard the results of a city survey that leaned heavily in favor of a ballot measure that includes a raise in the transient occupancy tax.

“It should consider (raising) TOT because it received the highest level of support,” surveyor Bryan Godbe told the council during its special meeting.

The city is considering putting an initiative in front of the 8,320 registered voters in November that’s designed to boost revenue to overcome a $2 million budget shortfall.

The $22,800 survey, taken in March from 603 voters, was aimed at finding out what tax initiatives the community would support, what services they’d like to keep and what issues are the most important.

The surveyor, Godbe Research & Analysis based in Half Moon Bay, Calif., concluded the city would have a better chance of passage if it hiked the 10 percent motel room tax that lodging charges guests.

If the city proposed a 1 percent raise, 72 percent said they would support it.

The percentage of support drops by 10 percent when a 2 percent hike is proposed.

Despite the seemingly strong support, Godbe suggested the council propose it as a general tax increase requiring a simple majority vote. A special tax, which specifically designates the use, requires a two-thirds vote.

The surveyor also warned the council that a strong oppositional campaign could sink the numbers.

“If there’s a substantial campaign against this measure, these numbers will go south,” Godbe said.

When Councilman Tom Davis asked whether competing measures on the ballot would make the city’s measure fail, Godbe cautioned that “confusion equals no vote.”

A South Lake Tahoe man plans to place a proposal on the November ballot raising the TOT 3 percent.

The surveyor also cited the need for the city to launch a cohesive public information campaign to advance the measure into the Nov. 5 election.

Other proposals to raise the parcel, utility and sales taxes received far less support. With fewer than half the voters surveyed supporting them, all the options failed to gain enough support to suggest passage, Godbe said.

When voters were asked what types of services they’d prefer be funded, senior citizen, city snowplow and street programs topped the list. Keeping the Lake Tahoe Airport open bottomed out the list.

There were a few surprises, Godbe indicated.

About 10 percent of those surveyed rated the economy as an important issue.

In the more than 200 surveys Godbe has conducted, the economy usually ranks in the single digits.

Traffic congestion led the issues with 14 percent of the voters throwing their support behind it.

Education sank to the bottom of the list, with 1 percent of the voters rating it as an important issue. This finding was “outside the norm,” Godbe said.

The surveyors and panel took relatively few questions and comments from the audience.

A few council members said they weren’t surprised by the results.

“I don’t question the validity of the survey, the problem is now the politics,” Councilman Bill Crawford said.


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