So Pas Voters to Decide On Local Sales Tax

Consultant Dr. Timothy McLarney, president of True North Research, presents the findings of a South Pasadena community opinion survey on the local sales-tax measure at City Hall, June 19. Photo by Skye Hannah

The South Pasadena City Council has unanimously approved placing a three-quarter-cent sales tax on the November ballot.

If approved by South Pas voters later this year, the tax would raise about $1.5 million per year in local revenue — enough to close the budget gap for the next several years, according to staff reports.

The council approved the move on Wednesday, June 19, at its regular meeting at City Hall.

The measure came after a polling company hired by the city released results of a survey that showed about 67 percent of those responding supported a sales-tax increase as a way of closing a budget deficit that could grow in coming years.

Currently, buyers in South Pasadena pay state and county sales taxes for a combined rate of 9.5 percent, but there is no local sales tax.

Mayor Marina Khubesrian, Council Member Diana Mahmud and Council Member Dr. Richard Schneider discuss items at the City Council Meeting at City Hall, June 19. Photos by Skye Hannah

As part of Wednesday’s meeting, the council heard a presentation by consultant Dr. Timothy McLarney, president and co-founder of Truth North Research, which facilitated a community opinion survey on what the city valued and its feelings on a tax.

The study was conducted April 25 to April 30, and involved a random sample of 607 voters likely to participate in the November 2020 election, with subsets likely to participate in the November 2019 and March 2020 elections. The study noted an overall margin of error of plus or minus 3.89 percent.

McLarney said there was a strong natural level of support for the measure at 67 percent. He noted that residents most highly supported public safety and public works.

“They want to see those services maintained and improved,” said McLarney.

He noted that the percentages from the study are “really strong numbers” and are a positive mark for the passage of the measure.

“These are the kinds of numbers that every city hopes to see when they go out to do one of these surveys and not every city gets,” said McLarney. “They are certainly encouraging.”

McLarney also cautioned the council that the poll provided a “snapshot in time,” and wasn’t a surefire bet for Election Day. He advised the council to be proactive in education and transparent with the community.

“As encouraging as these numbers are, and they are, what’s going to determine what’s going to happen on Election Day isn’t what your poll says today,” said McLarney. “It’s everything that happens from this point forward, in terms of how you structure this measure and the level of effort you put into communication with your community.”

Council Member Dr. Richard Schneider inquired if the sales-tax cap could be automatically raised and if there were constraints. City Attorney Teresa Highsmith responded that it cannot be raised without another measure going through an election ballot cycle.