A new survey shows Tucsonans use parks a lot and think they are important — and some politicians think it might show they wouldn’t mind paying a little more in sales taxes if it meant the money went to parks.
Another poll coming this week should make it clear whether that’s something voters would support.
The city surveyed 10,000 households, and 1,200-1,300 people responded, said Fred Gray, director of Parks and Recreation in Tucson.
The survey was done as part of a project to create a new, five-year master plan for city parks that will be finished by the end of June, he said.
The goal for the master plan is to see what people want in the parks and to research how the city can realistically make that happen.
The survey showed “there are some things that are just uniformly important throughout the entire community,” said ETC Institute vice president Ron Vine, the survey project manager. “Your usage of your park is high” in comparison to similar cities.
About 92 percent of households say they use at least some of the offerings from parks and recreation, Vine said.
Asked how they would allocate $100 for programs, facilities and services, families were split between maintenance of the 128 parks, the Reid Park Zoo and KIDCO after-school programs, according to the survey.
Among other findings:
- One-third of households have used neighborhood and community parks over the past 12 months.
- Outdoor walking and biking paths are the most important to 47 percent of households.
- About 90 percent of households think it is very important or somewhat important to provide high-quality parks, trails and recreation facilities.
- About 90 percent of households would support funding for improvements to the outdoor parks and recreations system.
The Tucson City Council could use that last point as it decides whether and how to ask voters to approve a sales tax increase to help solve budget problems. A half-cent sales tax increase would bring the city $50 million in new revenue, but must be approved by voters.
The survey shows the city that people are interested in using the sales tax to pay for more parks, fields and better lighting, as a part of park maintenance, said Councilman Richard Fimbres.
Michael Ortega, Tucson’s city manager, disagrees. He said the survey did not show that Tucsonans would be willing to pay an increased tax to fund parks.
The survey did not depict whether residents would want to pay more for the parks and recreation services, or if they would rather have their current taxes reallocated and spread further into parks and recreation.
A separate poll — authorized by the council and paid for by the Southern Arizona Leadership Council — will ask voters directly whether they would support a tax that will pay for parks, said Mayor Jonathan Rothschild.
The poll, which is to go out this week, will ask about other options for spending new tax revenue, too, including public safety or transit.
A half-cent sales tax increase would add 25 cents to the current $1 tax on a $50 purchase, not including groceries.
The council has not yet decided when to put the issue on the ballot, but it could be as soon as August or November.