More than 60 percent of the people who participated in a recent survey would support a one-percent sales tax hike in Murrieta if the City Council decides to add a measure to the November ballot.
The increase — which is only being studied at this point — would raise the city’s rate from 7.75 to 8.75 percent.
“With only the information provided in the ballot language, 61 percent of the likely November 2018 voters surveyed indicated that they would support the proposed one-cent sales tax to fund municipal projects and services,” according to the synopsis of the survey, which was presented to the council this week.
When the same voters were given the option of supporting a half-cent increase, the number jumped to 70 percent.
Thirty-two percent of the respondents — a random sampling of 746 voters surveyed by Encinitas-based True North Research — said they did not support a one-percent hike, listing as concerns the city’s existing tax burden, a need for more information and a worry about the money being “mismanaged.” Eight percent were “unsure” or unwilling to share their vote choice.
For Murrieta residents: Would you vote for a measure that raises the city's sales tax rate by one percent?
— TVD_Claverie (@TVD_Claverie) March 8, 2018
Temecula voters approved a one-percent increase to that city’s sales tax rate in 2016, a measure that generates tens of millions in new revenue that has been used to spruce up parks, hire new police officers, open a new fire station, pave roads and more.
The ballot measure, Measure S, was a “general purpose measure” which only required a majority vote. The margin was narrow but the measure ended up passing after receiving 51 percent of the vote.
Supporters of the increase said Temecula needed to generate new revenue to prevent a “structural deficit,” which was projected for upcoming fiscal years based on rising costs for police and fire service. Foes said the City Council should have done more to trim operating costs or look harder at options such as starting the city’s own police and fire departments.
Murrieta has its own police and fire departments but it is facing similar issues with its budget, which was only balanced last year after the city banked higher-than-normal sales tax revenue tied to the new CarMax dealership on Madison Avenue, reduced the operating reserve limit from 27 percent to 25 percent and transferred around $265,000 from the economic contingency fund.
The City Council, which has shown a historic aversion to tax increases, has not decided whether to place a measure on the November ballot.
“I want to see the whole budget,” said Mayor Jonathan Ingram on Wednesday night, adding that a subcommittee of council members Kelly Seyarto and Randon Lane will be discussing the particulars of this year’s budget situation — every line item — at an upcoming workshop. “And they will be bringing back their recommendations to the full council for a goals setting session that we will be having.”