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City to spend $25k for sales tax outreach effort

DEL MAR — In an effort to educate voters about a proposed 1 percent sales tax increase, council members at the Aug. 1 meeting unanimously agreed to spend up to $25,000 to hire a consultant for public outreach.

A recent survey indicated a little more than 70 percent of registered voters in Del Mar, the county’s smallest city, would likely support the tax hike.

True North Research Inc., which conducted the opinion poll, “strongly recommends a public education and outreach program to educate the voters about the measure” that will be on the Nov. 8 general election ballot, the staff report states.

“(O)ne of the keys to building and sustaining support for the proposed measure will be the presence of an effective, well-organized public outreach effort and separate, independent campaign that focuses on the need for the measure as well as the many benefits that it will bring,” Timothy McLarney, president of True North, wrote in his survey report.

The outreach may include mailers, water bill inserts, website content and press releases distributed to local media.

Information will address issues such as why council approved the ballot measure, the city’s current financial situation to show why the additional revenue is needed, the amount that will be generated (approximately $2 million annually) and how the money will be used.

It is estimated that about 70 percent of the sales tax in the city is paid by visitors. Council members see the tax increase as a way for them to help pay for services provided, especially to the approximately 2 million beachgoers who come to Del Mar annually.

The money will be used for a variety of projects, such as utility pole undergrounding, downtown streetscape improvements and the Shores property master plan implementation.

A consultant can help ensure the campaign stays on message, doesn’t cross the legal lines between education and advocacy and doesn’t get lost in the myriad other measures on the November ballot, including a countywide half-cent sales tax increase, according to the staff report.

“There’ll be a lot of activity going on,” City Manager Scott Huth said. “And just having factual information (and) getting the facts straight, at least from us, and working through a professional would be a good thing.”

Huth said some educational outreach will be done in-house so the effort may not require use of the entire $25,000.

Although True North recommended hiring a consultant, the company does not perform that type of service.

Although most registered voters support the tax hike, the business community opposes it.

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