NEWARK -- The City Council on Thursday will see survey results indicating whether voters will support an extension of a utility tax this November.
The tax, which generated more than $3 million last year, expires at the end of 2015, and city leaders say losing that money would blow a hole in Newark's budget, jeopardizing services that the tax helped restore.
Godbe Research, the San Mateo company the city paid $22,575 to conduct the telephone survey last month, will present its report to the council.
Newark's ongoing budget woes stemming from the slow economic recovery has led it to explore extending the tax, City Manager John Becker said.
"Our revenues have not grown to the extent that we've hoped in order to offset the utility tax revenue," he said. "Without that money, we'll have a significant deficit starting (fiscal year 2015-16), and the following year will be even worse."
Newark voters in 2010 passed Measure U, levying a 3.5 percent tax on utilities including electricity, natural gas, telephone/cellphones and cable television. The measure was approved at the height of the recession, as Newark and other cities statewide were slashing budgets.
In fiscal year 2012-13, the tax generated $3.2 million, nearly 9 percent of the city's operating budget, Becker said.
In the past 31/2 years, Newark leaders have spent the tax money to restore cut services. They added two police officers, a detective and a school resource officer. They also reinstated the Neighborhood Watch program, the school crossing guard program and the Ash Street Park summer program, which serves at-risk youths. They also increased park maintenance and street sweeping and reopened the senior center.
Some City Hall critics have said that Newark should slash public salaries and benefits or even lay off employees before it cuts services to balance the budget.
However, Newark leaders say they used a number of cutbacks -- including hiring freezes and employee furlough days, as well as reducing city services -- to balance the budget a half-decade ago, and would do it again if the tax expired.
No decisions will be made Thursday night, Becker said. If council members favor placing the tax extension on the November ballot, they likely would vote on it at a June meeting, he said.
Contact Chris De Benedetti at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/cdebenedetti.
Consultants will deliver findings from a recent voter survey at the Newark City Council meeting at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the City Hall council chamber, 37101 Newark Blvd., sixth floor.