In the near future, Hesperians will be asked how they feel about the city raising taxes to pay for more police and fire service.

At Tuesday night's meeting, the Hesperia City Council approved paying up to $40,000 to Oakland-based consulting firm Tramutola to survey residents about the possibility of putting an initiative to raise taxes on the ballot in November.

The city is seeking the money to meet public safety needs sketched out by the city in 2006 and 2007.

If approved, the tax would be spent on a prioritized list of enhanced police and fires services.

The lists include the following:

* Hiring more police officers (with a target of .75 sworn officers for every 1,000 residents).
* Establishing a Problem Oriented Police Task Force of two officers across four shifts to handle graffiti, vandalism, drug and gang activities.
* Create a Retail Enforcement Team to patrol the commercial areas along Main Street and Interstate 15.
* Replace one limited term firefighter with a firefighter/paramedic on each of the city's four ambulances.
* Add a second ambulance per fire station with two firefighter/paramedics.
* Increase staffing to four personnel per fire engine (one captain, one engineer and two firefighters).

"The council has asked us to look into this," city spokeswoman Kelly Malloy said Wednesday. "A lot of California cities have had some success in passing these initiatives."

Not all of the council was on board with the decision, however.

"I personally think now is a bad time to ask for new taxes," said Councilman Mike Leonard.

"It's a feasibility study," said Mayor Pro Tem Paul Bosacki. "How important is public safety to the residents of Hesperia? [It] should be the public's decision. ... Would they be willing to put the issue on a ballot?"

Mayor Thurston "Smitty" Smith objected to spending $40,000 not previously set aside in the budget for the study.

"A note or letter in the water bill would be a lot cheaper," he said.

The issue had been voted on, and approved, back at the board's Nov. 17 meeting: Tuesday's vote was simply how to pay for it. And as happened in November, Smith and Leonard voted against Tuesday's measure, which passed by a 3-2 vote.

The form and size of the proposed tax will be dependent on the results of the survey. And even what it will be spent on is up in the air: While the city once hoped all six items on their wish list could be achieved with the tax, the current goal is to do just one or two items from the police and fire department wish lists. And if the city's economic picture further worsens, it could end up merely paying for current levels of service.

"We don't want this economy to make us stop planning," said Malloy, "Because eventually things will get better and this is our way of looking to the future."

The next regular meeting of the Hesperia City Council will take place on Jan. 19 at 6:30 p.m. at Hesperia City Hall, 9700 Seventh Avenue.

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 760-956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com. Follow us on Twitter at Twitter.com/HesperiaStar.