On June 20th, I commissioned an automated phone poll to be conducted of the most frequent voters in the City. The results we interesting, but not very surprising. Residents are on the fence about new taxes and find little reason to believe that their tax dollars are well spent.
Respondents were asked whether they would support tax levies for various items, ranging from more police, to better roads, to nicer parks. The response was split down the middle with 50 percent stating they would support a levy and 50 percent stating they would not. The only item that saw more support was the senior center at 66 percent. However, this is to be expected considering the sample was skewed to the above 60 crowd. So there may be a chance for a senior services levy, if the senior center lasts that long.
The most interesting portion of the survey came at the end with the questions regarding opinions of City government.
- 41% believe taxes are already too high
- 50% are dissatisfied with city government
- 51% believe taxes are spent unwisely
These results show that there is a significant level of discontent with city hall. At the very least, support for city government is lackluster.
What does this mean for tax levies in Maple Heights?
These results bode poorly for any proposed tax levies. First, the 41 percent who believe their taxes are already too high are very unlikely to be swayed. Of the remaining 60 percent, the city would have to convince 5 out of 6 voters to support the levy. That is unlikely, especially considering that only 18 percent of respondents believed their taxes were spent wisely (the remaining 31 percent were unsure). Besides, Maple Heights already has one of the highest property tax rates in the County.
Furthermore, the traffic camera incident of 2014 has sapped any reserves of trust in the city government. Nevertheless, city officials are again salivating for the revenue from the cameras and are considering putting them back on the ballot. That would be a completely foolhardy move – it would destroy any hope of passing a levy.
One last note. The final question of the survey asked whether the respondent knew that Maple Heights was in Fiscal Emergency – 38% were not. I purposely saved that question for last because I did not want it to affect the results. However, I would venture that, if I had asked that question first, respondents would have shown even less trust in city government.
Whatever the case, support for a tax levy (even the for senior services) rides on the edge of a knife. All the stars will have to line up for any tax increase to pass. If any opposition campaign is launched, it is doubtful a support campaign could overcome the latent distrust among the electorate. If city hall decides to push traffic cameras again, any proposed levy will lose. There is simply too much discontent among the voters.
Remember, city officials would have to convince roughly 5 of 6 voters who think their taxes are “about right.” Their efforts would probably be better spent trying to build trust with the voters.
The response to the poll was phenomenal with roughly 230 people responding. Thank you to all who participated – is was a valuable endeavor. There will be more surveys to come. Hopefully, new city officials can turn this trend around and starting building trust with residents.