Recent polling commissioned by the Tuolumne County (Calif.) Board of Supervisors suggested that a majority of local voters in next year’s elections would support increasing taxes to fund government services, despite many not believing the county’s finances are being well managed, according to The Union Democrat

The board voted 4-1 at a public meeting on Tuesday to move forward with putting measures on the ballot for the March 3 election that would increase the county’s sales and hotel taxes, which are among the lowest in California.

County Supervisor Anaiah Kirk said he opposed moving forward with the measures because he believed the county isn’t putting up enough of a fight against the state, which he noted has a projected $21 billion budget surplus this year.

Kirk requested to have county staff facilitate a meeting with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office to give a presentation on the county’s budget woes, but County Supervisor and Board Chairman Karl Rodefer declined because he didn’t want to “undercut” other ongoing lobbying efforts by the California State Association of Counties, to which he’s a delegate.

“I want the governor’s office to see what rural counties are faced with and see the services we’re cutting and people we’re laying off,” Kirk said in an interview on why he voted no to the tax measures. “No one’s willing to fight the state, it’s easier to just roll over.”

Results from recent polling to gauge the likelihood of voters supporting such measures were presented to the board at the meeting by the Oakland-based consulting firm FM3 Research, which was hired by the county in July for $38,500.

The firm conducted 403 interviews between Aug. 12 and 19 with registered voters in Tuolumne County who were likely to vote in next year’s election, which included people who were reached online, on landline telephones and cell phones.

Out of those interviewed, 65% said they would support raising the county’s sales tax and 60% would support increasing the Transient Occupancy Tax, often referred to as a “hotel tax.”

Nearly 75% said they understood the county was in need of additional revenue.

“This was a pretty high number relatively speaking to what we see in some other types of communities,” said Curtis Below, partner and chief operating officer of FM3 Research.

Increasing the county’s Transient Occupancy Tax, or TOT, from 10% to 14% and extending it to RV parks and private campgrounds would provide an additional $2.3 million annually.

Half of the people interviewed were asked for their opinion on increasing the TOT before being asked about a sales tax, while the other half were asked about the sales tax first.

Support for a TOT increase dropped to 50% when people were informed about a potential sales tax being on the ballot as well, but support for sales tax remained about the same even when they became aware of a separate proposal to increase the TOT.

Below described the result as “a little bit counterintuitive” given that the TOT is paid mostly by visitors renting accommodations like hotel rooms, while sales tax is charged to everyone when they make a purchase.

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