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Independent Voice

Proposed Sales Tax Community Survey Underway

Apr 10, 2024 10:23AM ● By Angela Underwood

DIXON, CA (MPG) - It's all in the way you ask.

That is why Dixon is bringing on two consultants to conduct community surveys to help formulate questions for the November ballot over a local one-cent sales tax.

In March, Vice-Mayor Kevin Johnson admitted Dixon’s last measure failed because officials did not inform the public properly before the vote. However, that will not happen again, according to Johnson and the Dixon City Council, which passed a resolution on April 2 authorizing funds to hire two consultants to help them formulate more specific ballot questions.

Public information officer Madeline Graf said Dixon regularly conducts surveys to understand its community members’ needs and preferences.

"The purpose of these specific surveys is to determine which services are of greatest concern to citizens and to what level the public is willing to fund them," Graf said. "The revenues could be used for a variety of services, such as fire, police, public facilities like roads and parks, and to continue the levels of service people of Dixon have come to expect."

City attorney Doug White said it is best practice to have two consultants: one who has historical knowledge and experience in community engagement in Dixon and another who can approach the project with a fresh perspective.

"I think it will give us the ability to better understand our community, reaffirm our beliefs and make sure we are not just getting the person who is doing it biased to come across," White said.

According to White, hiring the consultants costs about $60,000. A new consultant could raise that number slightly because they are not familiar with the demographics. Councilmember Thom Hogue did not want to bid for any advisor, saying that in the past, other advisors were not accurate in gathering all their information.

"I don't know why we keep spending money on consultants to do that since we can actually do a survey to see what people's ideas are," Bogue said. "We would probably have the questions more aligned with our community."

While acknowledging that a prior survey might not have been accurate, White said consultants approach the matter scientifically and get "better demographic representation than we would ever be able to have done on our own initiative."

Bogue brought up Dixon’s last two tax proposals getting "shot down."

"I just don't want to go down that road again, considering the times we are in," Bogue said.

While he "would love to do it internally," Vice-Mayor Johson said, the council needs to proceed with professionals who can help the public understand why they are proposing.

"We need a third party that is not in the muck of our city," Johnson said.

According to the vice mayor, what’s most important is the formulation of the questions, saying the previous survey conducted for the last failed ballot measure had unclear questions.

"They were not specific enough and you really had to extract some secret information from the way the questions were formed," Johnson said. "I would like the council to be more participatory in the formation of the questions."