Between 49 and 60 percent of Hesperians would support a half-cent sales tax hike, according to a survey conducted earlier this year. City officials believe that, with a bit more information about what they'd spend the revenue on, that support could grow even larger.


On Tuesday, the Hesperia City Council gave the go-ahead to Oakland-based consulting firm Tramutola to conduct the second-half of a two-stage program to survey residents about a proposed hike to the city's current 8.75 percent sales tax rate. Officials intend to spend the added revenue on fire and police service.


A poll conducted by Encinitas-based True North Research interviewed 400 residents, asking them about their most pressing concerns and their willingness to support a tax on the November ballot. Increasing fire and police service came in number three their polling, behind improving roads and residents not able to think of any pressing needs at all.


Partly, officials say, that's because the public doesn't yet understanding what the city's intentions are.


"Right now, residents, whether they participated in the survey or not, don't have a lot of information about what this is, why we need this," said Kim Summers, assistant to the city manager. "Hopefully this will go out and answer all these questions ... and allow us to get community feedback."


Without an additional source of revenue, Summers said, it will be difficult for the city to maintain the current levels of fire and police service in the city.


"Across the board, all of our revenues in the city are continuing to plummet. For the last few years, we have cut whatever it's possible to cut," she said. "It's getting more and more difficult. In the area of public safety, in particular, at some point, when your revenue can't keep up with your expenses, you're going to have to look at making cuts. And we don't have a lot of wiggle room for cuts."


For the most part, the fire and police service are paid for in two separate ways currently.


"Something like 57 percent of the general fund goes to police," Summers said. "The revenue for the fire district comes out of property taxes, which have plummeted at a ridiculous pace."


Ironically, a special tax that could only go for fire and police service is harder to pass under California law than a general tax that could go towards nearly anything. A special tax would require the support of two-thirds of voters in November, while a general tax only requires a simple majority of voters to approve it.


But that's if there ends up being a tax on the ballot at all: The city council will consider the data from this next phase of polling data and make a decision this summer. The deadline to put the issue on the ballot is August 5.


The next regular meeting of the Hesperia City Council will take place on May 18 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 Facebook at Facebook.com/Hesperia.Star