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County considers poll to gauge public support for a sales tax

Results will help commissioners decide whether to put question on 2022 ballot
Montezuma County is considering hiring a firm to conduct a public opinion survey on whether a county sales tax is needed. (Journal file)

The Montezuma County Commissioners are considering a professional survey to gauge the potential for voter approval of a countywide sales tax if it were put on the 2022 November ballot.

Currently, there is no county sales tax, although one has been debated for years. No decisions have been made to put it on the ballot, and the possible tax amount has not been specified.

The county heard from Magellan Strategies, a Colorado-based public opinion and research firm, for potentially conducting the survey and analysis.

The survey would include a presentation of the purpose and need of a sales tax, and include a questionnaire. A randomized selection of community members would be contacted by phone and via text messaging to participate in the survey, and it may also be available online.

Surveys help governments understand public and voter opinions on potential ballot measures, said Magellan Strategies CEO David Flaherty.

“We have done well forecasting support or opposition on a ballot measure,” he said.

Surveys and polling help “reduce blind spots” when government entities consider whether to put a question on the ballot.

Survey participants would be informed “that no decisions have been made, but we want to hear from you. Help us by participating in the survey,” Flaherty said.

The survey costs estimated for the county ranged between $10,000 and $15,000 depending on the scope, sample size, analysis and number of questions.

In creating the survey and calculating results, the firm works with county officials on the information to be presented, and closely analyzes demographics of past voter participation in elections.

The survey period would last two weeks. Participants are presented with information about the issue and proposed ballot measure, then asked a series of questions.

Commissioners expressed initial support for a professional survey and poll on the sales tax issue.

“I’d like to have some kind of footing to make a decision on whether to spend tax dollars on a (ballot) question,” said commissioner Kent Lindsay.

A county election and ballot could cost around $20,000, if there were no other entities participating. The price would be reduced through cost shares with other government entities if they also participate in the election.

A survey “gets us going in the proper direction, and we can see what the pulse of the community is,” said commissioner Jim Candelaria said. “If we go this route, then we know ‘yes’ or ‘no’ whether to put it on the ballot.”

What specifically the sales tax revenue would be spent on needs to be decided prior to any potential ballot question, he said.

A shrinking budget because of declining property tax revenues is a concern for the county.

Administrator Shak Powers said the county is facing a potential $2 million shortfall for 2022 because of reduced property assessment rates and a 2020 drop in CO2 production by Kinder Morgan, which provides more than 30% of county tax revenues.

“To maintain the status quo of services, we either have to increase revenues or reduce the services we are currently providing,” he said.

jmimiaga@the-journal.com