Murrieta paying consultant $60,000 to write sales tax measure

Council could decide this summer to put a sales tax hike on the November ballot.

The drumbeat for a sales tax measure in Murrieta is growing louder.

The City Council this week approved a not-to-exceed $60,000 contract with a San Francisco-based consulting firm, TBWB Strategies, that will be drawing up ballot language for a one-percent hike that could be added to the November ballot.

TBWB has worked on similar campaigns for hundreds of cities and special districts. The vote was 3-0 with Mayor Jonathan Ingram and Councilman Alan Long absent.

In addition to working on the language, the firm will be putting together a community outreach plan that likely will include mailers, a dedicated website, fact sheets and community forums.

The city is prohibited from “express advocacy” of any measure but state law allows a municipality to use tax dollars to pay for “information and community outreach to voters on the facts surrounding any proposed measure.”

A recent survey conducted by True North Research of Encinitas — which can be found here — shows around 60 percent of likely voters would support a general use sales tax increase of one percent. The number jumped to 70 percent for a half-percent hike.

A one-percent increase would raise the city’s sales tax rate to 8.75.

The city of Temecula paid for a similar survey before putting a one-percent sales tax increase on the 2016 ballot, which was narrowly approved by 51 percent of voters.

Ahead of that election, there were foes of the measure who painted it as a cash grab by the city and supporters who said Temecula needed the extra revenue to cover rising costs for police and fire service.

Murrieta has its own police and fire departments — it’s one of the few cities in the region that doesn’t contract those services with the county — but it also is dealing with rising public safety costs, which have become an increasingly large segment of the city’s expenditure pie chart.

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