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Supervisors Move Toward Public Safety Tax Ballot Measure

MADERA COUNTY – The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday to accept a proposal from VRPA Technologies, Inc. (VRPA) to study the feasibility of placing a public safety tax initiative on the November ballot.

On Jan. 26, the Board directed Chief Administrative Officer Eric Fleming and his staff to seek out a consultant and determine what it would cost to do outreach, gather opinions and conduct research on whether voters might be likely to approve a public safety tax that would go directly to fire and law enforcement.

Yesterday, VRPA  – the local firm that conducted the successful project that resulted in Madera County voters passing transportation Measure “T” in 2006 – made a presentation to the Board outlining the process between now and November.

The first order of business would be doing public outreach to determine whether Madera County residents would support such a tax.

“We need to assess voter support,” said Georgiena Vivian, president of VRPA, who laid out a plan for conducting public outreach and polling to gauge the level of support for the proposed tax, determine how the public would like to be informed about the process going forward, how long they would be willing for any tax to last, and whether they are strongly in favor or opposed.

VRPA would engage with stakeholders and community leaders, conduct meetings and give PowerPoint presentations, send out mass mailings, and enlist the services of local media. They would work in partnership with Fleming’s office and the Ad Hoc Committee created for this project, in educating the public about what the tax would do, how long it would be in effect, how it would address the needs that have been identified, and how much revenue it would raise.

They would also prepare draft ballot language; conduct telephone surveys with likely voters; prepare agenda items before the Board of Supervisors focusing on results of the stakeholder interviews and the initial opinion poll; interview key stakeholders, community leaders, and potential critics or special interest group leaders to understand what is important to them and to assess their potential support for or opposition to the proposed sales tax measure.

They would engage the Chambers of Commerce, Madera County Taxpayers Association and Farm Bureau, civic groups such as Lions and Rotary Clubs, plus key city and county government and private sector leaders — all in an effort “to elicit important feedback on community perceptions regarding public safety in Madera County.”

“These interviews, combined with detailed polling results, will provide valuable insight into community expectations,” stated VRPA in their written presentation to the Board.

The Board voted 5-0 to direct County Counsel to prepare an agreement, in an amount not to exceed $185,202, for VRPA to begin the project.

The exact amount of any such tax has not yet been determined, but discussions have proposed something between .05 and .09 percent.

Fleming will return to the Board on Feb. 23 with a contract and associated budget adjustments and if approved, the project will be financed out of the existing “Appropriation for Contingency” funds that are already budgeted in the 2015-16 County budget.

If the process finds sufficient community support for the proposed tax, it will be placed on the November ballot and left for the voters of Madera County to decide.

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