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Atascadero inches toward a half-percent sales tax 

With its miles and miles of crumbling roads and not a whole lot of money available to fix them, Atascadero has taken one step closer to pitching to voters a half-percent increase.

The Atascadero City Council heard from an independent pollster that assessed general feelings and possible support for a measure that, if placed on the November 2014 ballot, would bring the city’s sales tax from 7.5 percent up to 8 percent. Atascadero is currently the only city in San Luis Obispo County with a 7.5 percent sales tax; every other city has an 8 percent sales tax. If placed on the ballot and approved by voters, the tax could generate an estimated $1.7 to $2 million for road repairs. Atascadero City Manager Rachelle Rickard said this money is desperately needed because the money just isn’t there when it comes to funding for the 139 miles of city-maintained roads.

“While we’ve done very well in grants and other things in trying to keep our head above this infrastructure, we’ve still continued to slip back on other things,” Rickard said.

Jennifer Franz, owner of the Sacramento-based polling company JD Franz Research, reviewed the results from polling a set of Atascadero residents. Approximately 61 percent of the respondents said they’d be supportive of the measure, but that level dropped to 54 percent when asked if they’d support that measure in conjunction with a school bond measure that’s also expected to be on the November ballot. That narrow margin of approval, as well as the idea of a tax increase, made the council wary.

“Taxes are tough for Atascaderoans. We’re not like other cities,” said Councilmember Roberta Fonzi, explaining that she wasn’t in favor of tax increases during a recession.

The council voted unanimously to direct staff to draft a proposal that the members will revisit in June and consider whether to place a measure on the November ballot.

-- Melody DeMeritt - former city council member, Morro Bay

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