More than half of 1,040 Calaveras County voters are concerned the county is on the wrong track, according to results of a public opinion survey conducted this month to measure support for a potential visitors tax increase to be put to voters in November.

The survey was conducted for Calaveras County by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates, Inc., also known as FM3 Research, of Los Angeles.

Randomly sampled registered voters were surveyed June 6 through 11. They were not asked why they are concerned the county is on the wrong track. Nevertheless, several people, including elected leaders, reacted to the finding presented by Richard Bernard of FM3 Research during a Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday in San Andreas.

Asked about the survey and shown a page highlighting the finding that 56 percent of voters surveyed are concerned, Clyde Clapp, the elected supervisor for District 5, said he agreed the county is on the wrong track.

“In the past half year I’ve lost a dozen friends who have moved out of the county because of the pot issue,” Clapp said Tuesday outside the Board of Supervisors meeting room. “They’re all elderly. It’s a culture issue more than a pot issue. It’s more a clash between two generations.”

Clapp said that when trimmers came to Calaveras County to work during previous marijuana harvests, many of his friends would no longer go to shop at the local Mar-Val Food Store.

“They didn’t want to see those people,” Clapp said. “When they leave the county, they take their money with them.”

Mike Oliveira, supervisor for District 3, pointed a finger at the page highlighting that more than half of voters surveyed are concerned the county is on the wrong track.

“You know what bothers me about this? This is a result of 20 years of not keeping the public informed in ways they can understand,” Oliveira said. “They think we’re on the wrong track because they don’t know what track we’re on, where we started, or where we need to go.”

People don’t understand the visitors tax increase, if voters approve it, could mean more money the county needs for dedicated services, public safety, roads and infrastructure, Oliveira said.

Asked about the survey’s finding of low voter confidence in the county’s current direction, Jack Garamendi, supervisor for District 2, said, “Of course I’m concerned. It’s important people have confidence in the county’s leadership. It’s up to us, elected officials, to change that.”

Al Segalla with the Calaveras County Taxpayers Association said he agrees that the county is on the wrong track. But he said he’s against increasing the transient occupancy tax, which taxes people who stay in hotels in Calaveras County.

“They should have asked why people are concerned,” Segalla said. “I’m concerned because we have too much government involved in too many things. The cannabis ban has brought tremendous damage to the county. Over-regulation of other businesses and development is making it impossible to build more houses and improve the housing supply.”

Segalla said he believed the presentation by FM3 Research was biased in favor of increasing the visitors tax. He said it was designed to promote increasing the tax. He said increasing the visitors tax is a mistake.

“I don’t favor increasing the T.O.T.,” Segalla said. “Leaving it at 6 percent would provide the county with the opportunity to advertise ‘Come to Calaveras County, We Tax You Less.’ Right now we’re lower than Amador and Tuolumne counties. Angels Camp is 10 percent.”

Trent Fiore, a pastor at a church in Mokelumne Hill who favors the current ban on commercial cannabis activities in Calaveras County, said increasing the visitors tax is a good idea.

Bernard with FM3 Research told the Board of Supervisors eight of 10 voters surveyed perceive Calaveras County has a great need or some need for more funds for local county services, including 52 percent who say the need is great.

Support for raising the visitors tax exceeds 60 percent in Calaveras County, according to FM3 Research findings. Support for raising the tax ranges from 62 percent in District 1 to 77 percent in District 3, Bernard said.

The Board of Supervisors voted in April to spend $23,500 on a consultant to do polling, outreach and education in advance of putting a ballot measure to voters in November to boost the county’s visitors tax from 6 percent to 10 or 12 percent. Boosting the tax could provide $400,000 to $600,000 annually for unrestricted general revenue purposes.

Also in April, Tim Lutz, the county administrative officer, said the deadline to get a measure on November ballots is July 24.

The presentation Tuesday by Bernard with FM3 Research was an information item that required no action by the Board of Supervisors. Nevertheless, Lutz polled the board and four supervisors — Clapp, Oliveira, Garamendi and Gary Tofanelli, District 1 — said they favored putting a 12 percent visitors tax increase on November ballots. Dennis Mills, the District 4 supervisor, favored putting the tax on November ballots asking for a 10 percent increase.

Contact Guy McCarthy at gmccarthy@uniondemocrat.com or 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.

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