The City of Gilroy will not pursue a public safety sales tax measure for the 2020 election, the council unanimously decided Nov. 18.
Two pollings of Gilroy voters in April and October found mixed support for a quarter-cent sales tax measure, according to a report by EMC Research, which conducted the survey. Such a sales tax, with revenues going to the police and fire departments, would require a two-thirds voter approval.
According to city staff, a quarter-cent sales tax would raise about $4.2 million annually for both departments.
The polling included mailings sent earlier this year to 14,113 mailboxes of the more than 25,000 voters in Gilroy, as well as slightly more than 9,000 emails. A total of 602 responses were received from the mailer and email.
On Oct. 14, a “Telephone Town Hall” conducted by EMC Research dialed more than 5,000 landlines, with 643 of the 1,059 people who answered the phone participating in the survey, according to Sara LaBatt, principal of the firm.
From Oct. 17-24, EMC Research received 405 responses through a telephone and email survey.
The polling found that 64 percent of respondents would vote in favor of the sales tax, just short of the 66 percent needed, LaBatt said. That number dipped to 56 percent after respondents were given “opposition messaging,” she said.
Overall, 52 percent said they felt Gilroy was headed in the right direction, and 76 percent answered that the quality of life was good.
A common concern from respondents was rising homelessness and population growth, with 34 percent saying they felt less safe today than they did two years ago.
“Crime and safety are in the mix, but they are not top tier issues,” LaBatt said.
Councilmember Cat Tucker said she was disappointed in the results, as she was in favor of putting the measure on the March ballot to increase funding for public safety. She said the polling shows “mounting evidence” against the tax. A majority of Gilroy residents are in favor of more public safety funding, she added, but not the required two-thirds.
“If the people don’t want to pay, they don’t want to pay,” she said. “We just have to figure out how we are going to pay for things.”
Councilmember Peter Leroe-Munoz commended the work done on the polling, saying it helped the council make an informed decision.
“It suggests a very steep uphill climb,” he said. “There’s a strong need for supporting public safety, but I don’t think this is the solution for it based on the results.”
The council approved a $26,640 contract with EMC Research in March.
Councilmember Fred Tovar was absent from the Nov. 18 meeting.