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April 26, 2017

Desert Hot Springs Public Safety Tax Survey

The two public safety taxes in Desert Hot Springs are set to expire in a couple of years, so, as before, the city hired a firm to survey the residents on how they saw things. They've published three documents from that survey which are available on the city's website. Here's one, the press release:

A recently commissioned independent survey shows 70% of respondents approve of the job the City of Desert Hot Springs is doing to provide city services. "We are thrilled that residents can see our hard work paying off. We appreciate their feedback very much," said City Manager and retired Police Chief Charles Maynard.

Amid nearly $10 million in state takeaways, the current administration and Council have avoided bankruptcy, reduced a $6 million deficit, maintained emergency reserves, and took [sic] steps to improve transparency. In March, the City was assigned an "A" rating with a stable outlook from Standard and Poor's for the 2017A and 2017A-T lease revenue bonds. Their Report cited strong fiscal management, budgetary performance, and liquidity as crucial factors for the positive rating.

"We must continue this momentum to secure our City's ongoing financial stability, safety and quality of life. We have taken decisive action to improve fiscal stability and public safety," continued City Manager Maynard. The City's overall crime rate has decreased 18 percent in the past year.

Constituents are particularly interested in maintaining and preventing cuts to public safety, including crime investigation and prevention, recruiting and retaining experienced police officers, increasing drug house investigations, and maintaining anti-gang and anti-drug programs.

"This community input is invaluable as we continue to work to decrease crime in Desert Hot Springs. Reducing and preventing crime, drugs, and gangs not only makes us safer, but more attractive to businesses that can revitalize our City. While we have reduced our overall crime rate, we must stay focused on patrolling our neighborhoods, anti-gang programs, cracking down on parole violators and monitoring sex offenders, even as the state continues to put more offenders back on our streets," elaborated Police Chief Dale Mondary.

The independent community survey was conducted March 24-30 by the highly respected opinion research firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (FM3 Research).

Constituents also overwhelmingly perceive there is a need for additional local funding with 87% saying there is "great" or "some" need. A majority, 57%, say there is "great" need.

Constituents expressed interest in the concept of continuing local, voter-approved funding to maintain and prevent cuts to public safety services with percentages as high as 77%. Existing, voter-approved local funding provides $5 million dollars annually for police officers and emergency response dispatchers, anti-gang enforcement operations, graffiti removal, code enforcement, and other public safety services. By law, all funds are specifically used only for Desert Hot Springs public safety services and are critical to the safety and survival of the City.

The City will continue to solicit feedback from the community about their public safety budget priorities. Residents can provide input and get more information by visiting: www.cityofdhs.org/Public_Safety_Conversation

Another document is a Powerpoint presentation summarizing the findings.

The survey consisted of 271 interviews conducted by landlines, cell phones and on-line. Seventy percent of respondents say they either strongly or somewhat approve of the city's work to provide services. Eighty-seven percent say there is a either a great need or some need for more funding for the city.

Crime is still viewed as a top challenge facing the City of DHS
Summarizing these issues, from top to bottom, they are

  1. public safety
  2. public safety
  3. public safety
  4. public safety
  5. not much to do [economy?]
  6. public safety
  7. economy
  8. economy
  9. public safety
  10. public safety

Amount residents pay in DHS taxes is a low tier concern
Of these seven issues, local taxes are the least concern.

Compared to ten years ago, residents now are more concerned about parolees, crime, gangs and juvenile violence. They have become less concerned about city taxes, the number of police officers, the number of sex offenders and the condition of the local economy.

Here's the language that would describe an increase in the utility users' tax, which is currently 7%.

To maintain and increase rapid police, fire and 911 emergency response times; police training, recruitment/retention; and crime investigation; and to hire additional police officers to patrol streets, shall the City of Desert Hot Springs increase its existing, voter-approved utility users' tax by 2%, raising approximately $714,000 [additional] annually, until ended by voters, with independent citizens' oversight, annual audits and all fund required to stay local?

I want to point out that the proposal is not to raise the UUT by 2%, but by two percentage points to 9%. An increase of only 2% would change the rate of the UUT to only 7.14%.

67% of likely voters said they would definitely or probably vote yes or were undecided but "lean yes." The no vote came to 29%, with 5% genuinely undecided and not leaning.

Here's the text for an extension of the public safety parcel tax:

To prevent essential public safety services cuts such as police/emergency response, anti-gang/drug, youth violence prevention and sex offender/parolee monitoring programs, shall the City of Desert Hot Springs extend its existing, voter-approved public safety measure providing approximately $2 million annually at the current rate of $135 per single-family residence, until ended by voters, requiring citizens review, audits, all funds to stay in Desert Hot Springs, with no tax increase for these parcels?

Note that this survey question does not say what will be done with the public safety parcel taxes for hotels, multi-family housing, commercial or industrial parcels. I imagine they would be considering increasing those, but they don't say that. But the question as is generates a 77% yes rate, which includes 54% definitely yes, 18% probably yes and 4% undecided but leaning to yes. 17% answered no. Six percent undecided. If they restrict the answers to likely voters, the yes rate increases to 78%; the no rate stays at 17%.

A measure lowering the parcel tax for homeowners is more viable
Check out the heading for this page and then look at the data
. Offering a tax cut lowers the total yes vote from 77% to 75%, but those answering definitely yes rose from 54% to 64%. 73% say they definitely or probably would vote for a tax cut, which is one point more than the definites and probablies for holding the rate at its current level. The undecided, but lean yes drops from 4% to 2%, but the those who say they are undecided but lean towards no added to those who are simply undecided goes up from 7% to 14%. I'd say the two offers are equally viable, which is pretty surprising to me.

Democrats give the parcel tax proposal an 83% yes rate, Republicans a 75% yes rate and independents 63%.

Latinos support it at the rate of 92%(!) while whites support it at the rate of 71%.

Homeowners support the parcel tax measure at the rate of 73%, while 83% of renters support it.

The measure draws support ranging from 74% to 79% regardless of how long the voter has been residing in DHS.

Police staffing and crime investigation are top priorities for renewed funding
Check out that highlighted item, "Recruiting and retaining experienced police officers." While overall support for that is a tad lower than the five items listed higher, those who answered "extremely important" rose to 55%, the highest rated "extremely important" issue.

A variety of public safety investments are very important to DHS residents

Filed under Coachella Valley,Desert Hot Springs | permalink | April 26, 2017 at 07:55 PM

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