Durham survey reveals residents' tax fears

Staff WriterAugust 29, 2007 

— A recent telephone survey of Durham voters brought some sobering news to county officials fearful of derailing this fall's bond referendum.

The survey of 365 residents taken from a pool of 144,102 registered voters prompted county commissioners this week to table a decision on whether to place one or two new taxes on the same fall referendum.

The reason: The survey suggests the specter of a new tax could lead residents to vote down all or part of the $207 million bond issue, which would pay for construction at public schools, Durham Technical Community College and the N.C. Museum of Life and Science.

Some tidbits from the survey, conducted by Hertzog Research of Carrboro:

* Support for $8.7 million in improvements at Durham Tech is a little tenuous. If either an increase to the sales tax or to the land transfer tax was included on the same ballot as the bond questions, support for Durham Tech would drop nearly 10 percent, from 66 percent to 56.2 percent. But that is still enough support for approval.

* About 58 percent of county residents would vote for a quarter-cent increase to the sales tax (on nonfood items). But just 23 percent favor the 0.4 percent land transfer tax, which you would pay when selling property in Durham County.

* The presence of a sales tax increase on the ballot actually appears to help the school bond cause. About 45 percent of respondents said they would support the $195 million school bond without the sales tax increase on the ballot; that support rose to 51 percent with the sales tax increase included on the same ballot.

* Opinions on the $195 million school bond did not vary significantly by race or gender. But the survey found that residents older than 65 were much more likely to vote against the school bond, while those with children younger than 18 were much more likely to support it.

* Voters in the 27705 and 27701 ZIP codes -- western Durham and downtown -- were most likely to support the school bonds. Those in 27712 -- eastern Durham north of downtown and east of Roxboro Street -- were most likely to vote "no."

* Voters in the 27705 and 27713 ZIP codes are the strongest supporters of the $4.2 million museum bonds, while those in 27704 are the least supportive. The 27713 ZIP code is South Durham; 27704 is around Oak Grove north of N.C. 98.

The survey, which was administered Aug. 10 through 20, had a margin of error of plus or minus 5.1 percentage points.

Staff writer Eric Ferreri can be reached at 956-2415 or eric.ferreri@newsobserver.com.

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