City releases results of feasibility study

ATASCADERO — According to the results of a recent survey conducted in the city, Atascadero residents would be likely to approve a ballot measure to enact a one-cent sales tax that would provide the City with $5 million extra dollars each year to pay for police and fire services, parks and facilities and recreation programs. 

At a City Council meeting Tuesday, City Manager Rachelle Rickard announced the preliminary results of the sales tax feasibility study conducted by True North Research. Rickard said that a representative from True North would present the full results of the study at a future meeting. 

According to Rickard, 66 percent of respondents said that they would either “definitely” or “probably” support a sales tax measure on the November ballot. 

“It did vary by a few percentage points after people heard either arguments for or against being made,” Rickard said. “But generally it did hover around that 65 or 66 percent mark.” 

The survey questions were posited to nearly 800 Atascadero residents selected to statistically match the population of the city and “the results of the survey are a good representation of likely November voters,” according to a press release issued by the City Wednesday. 

“We’ve had a lot of financial difficulties — some challenges here in Atascadero,” Rickard said. “We are one of the lowest, if not the lowest, revenue cities here in the county per capita. We’re routinely in the bottom 25 percent of cities, 15 percent of cities in the amount we spend per capita and receive per capita. So we are fiscally challenged.”

The survey also asked a variety of other questions about living in Atascadero. When asked what one thing would make Atascadero a better place to live, the highest number of responses were to address issues with homelessness, improve and maintain public infrastructure such as streets and roads and to improve shopping and dining opportunities. 

“Those are similar to what we hear here in the Council chambers, so that’s not a big surprise,” Rickard said. 

Although not identified as a top priority by respondents, the survey also asked residents if they would support closing the Charles Paddock Zoo to save the City around $500,000 each year and 68 percent said that they’d like to keep the zoo open. 20 percent said that they would close the zoo and 11 percent preferred not to answer. 

The majority of those who responded to the survey have lived in Atascadero more than 15 years and the wide majority, 64 percent, rated the quality of life in the city as “good.” Another 17 percent rated the quality of life as “excellent,” 16 percent rated it as “fair” and just 1 percent rated it as “poor.”

“We have a meeting on March 24 and we’ll go through the survey results in detail and you can ask questions and go through that,” Rickard told the Council. “After that we’ll bring it back for Council to determine whether or not to place it on the ballot.”

Getting through this together, Atascadero