WALNUT CREEK -- City leaders want to know what residents think and so they plan to ask.
About 400 voting residents in the city should expect their phones to ring during the first week in September. Pollsters will be calling residents to ask what they know about the city's financial situation and what they would be willing to do to continue certain services.
The City Council completed its "fiscal sustainability" work and looked at various services it provides, and didn't identify any real cost-saving measures. Now the council has decided to reach out to the public and see what services residents value.
This is all in response to the multimillion dollar deficits projected in Walnut Creek budgets for the next several years. Things such as library hours, facility maintenance and pools are all services that are under the threat of loss of funding. The council agreed to pay EMC Research $20,000 for the polling work two weeks ago.
And at a City Council retreat meeting Friday, city leaders discussed what types of issues will be presented in the poll. Mayor Cindy Silva and Mayor Pro Tem Kristina Lawson will serve on a subcommittee to look over the questions, and make sure nothing was missed, before the poll begins.
Results will be public in October.
Silva said she thinks surveying the residents is exciting and will be helpful for the council in making decisions.
"We have an opportunity to actually, in a substantive way, have a conversation with our community in a way that we haven't been doing," she said.
Pollsters need to ask residents if they would be willing to pay more for services -- and that does not just mean a tax measure -- but if residents would pay higher fees for services, she said.
"I think it's important to know how the public perceives the fiscal issues right now," Silva said. "We need to find out what the public understands about these fiscal issues that we have been talking about for two-and-a-half to three years. And if they don't know, what their reaction is when they hear some information on it."
Much of the conversation Friday centered around the idea that some new revenue, such as a tax or a bond, may be necessary. Questions in this poll will not ask about specific measures because the council hasn't decided publicly any such measure is necessary. If the council does go in that direction, likely another poll would be done to determine what residents would vote for, according to pollsters.
Councilman Justin Wedel is not in favor of the polling because he doesn't understand what it will achieve because it's so vague. The council already knows that residents like city services and don't want any cuts, he said. He thinks the poll is just a way to get support for higher taxes.
"I think there are different opinions on the council of what this is actually pushing us towards," said Wedel on Friday. "I believe from this discussion there are other interests involved, quite possibly trying to raise revenue."
While the questions have not been crafted yet, residents will be asked their opinion on city leadership and the job the City Council is doing.
"Those questions are really important (such as) does the public trust us, do they think we do the right thing with their money already?" Lawson said.
That information is especially essential if the council decides to place some type of tax measure on the ballot.
"If they don't trust us they certainly are not going to give us any more money," she said.