Does the public really want a new recreation facility? How much will it cost? What taxes will be considered? The results of a recent survey shed light on the current feelings of the community and the chances the district will have in taking a $43 bond measure to voters in November.
Four hundred of the district's 12,250 registered voter were contacted in a May telephone survey. It included questions on funding for parcel and property assessed value taxes, whether residents use the current facilities, the condition of current parks and recreation areas, whether voters believe facilities improve property values and more.
Bryan Moore, principal of Isom Advisor, the company that conducted the weeklong survey, presented an overview of the findings at the May 15 Tehachapi Valley Recreation & Park District board meeting.
"This November or November of 2020 would be the best opportunities for the district given the results here of being able to pass these measures,” Moore said.
He added that this would allow time for main stakeholders to say whether they would support the project and provide more community education.
At least 66.7 percent of voters would need to be in favor of the project to put it to a vote, Moore said.
More people are in favor of the bond once they know more about its purpose.
So far, about 63.5 percent of the voters contacted are in favor of a bond after some voter education on it, while before the education efforts, it was favored by 58 percent of the voters. Voters against the project dropped from 31 percent to 29.3 percent after they learned more about it.
An additional 3 percent of voters contacted are leaning toward yes on a bond, with 2.8 percent undecided.
Other ratings were slightly higher for specific questions. Moore recommended that key stakeholders need to be involved in projects similar to this and that this provides better chances of helping a project succeed, as it has for other communities with similar ratings.
All percentages are based on data gathered if a vote were to be held now, verses later in the summer when the community would know more of the details of what was going to be built, how much the bond measure would cost, if taxes would go up and who the main stakeholders would be. The survey also recorded that 72 percent of voters currently use a park and recreational facility or service.
A bond would upgrade parks, construct an aquatic center, build new restrooms, and pay for safety and security improvements. If a $43 million bond were issued, it could generate an average of $2.4 million annually for the projects, but not for employee salaries, according to a PowerPoint presentation.
TVRPD District Manager Michelle Vance said so far the top priorities that the community wants in a new recreational facility are aquatics, a community room, a gym and a rock climbing wall. These results were taken from a May 3 public meeting, when residents placed comments and stickers on pictures of facilities.
“We need to serve, not underserve, and prepare for the future. If our community has grown 28 percent and our district has grown 4 percent, then we are underserving,” Vance said after the meeting.
Residents were asked in the survey whether they would support specific projects, especially if money from the bond would be used. Projects including building bathrooms, building a new senior center, upgrading Brite Lake including the boat launch, upgrading pavilion areas and paved roads received more than 66.7 percent support.
Other improvements to water conservation, a six-lane lap and therapy pool, a preschool and teen center, renovation of Little League fields, and repair of paved areas for walkways made it to more then 60 percent support.
New playgrounds, picnic areas, outdoor basketball courts, a new skate park, new soccer fields and an indoor track rated below 60 percent in support.
Residents also were asked about how much taxes they were willing to pay per year. The top results for a tax that would cost property owners $12 per year per $100,000 assessed valuation received 71 percent to 74 percent support, the highest rating. Other tax rates that ranged from $19 to $39 per year received 58 percent to 70 percent support, with support declining as the rate increased.
Parcel taxes were similar in numbers. They ranged from $12 to $29 per year for four to eight years. The most support was 63 percent to 71 percent, depending on the number of years considered for $12 per parcel tax per year, with the support decreasing as rates went up.
“We must be able to afford to not just build, but maintain on our own without the parcel tax," Tehachapi City Manager Greg Garrett said. He added, “If we can’t afford to operate with partnerships and fees then the parcel tax makes me very nervous.”
In response, Vance said that the business plan in the works includes a 100 percent cost recovery. The parcel tax could help pay for running the facility and maintenance, not from bond money to build it. If a parcel tax were agreed upon, then membership fees or services would be lower.
Vance added that the district spends at least $100,000 a year to fix facilities and it has been given or has taken on the maintenance of other locations. She said the district can’t take out any more loans.
Overall, Vance said after the meeting, “I was pleased on the outcome because it shows that the majority of the community is willing to reinvest in the park district.”
The next public meeting, called a "revitalization visioning meeting," will be held at 6 p.m. June 13 at the Aspen Builders Inc. Activity Center.