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GUEST OPINION: The stakes are high for Santa Rosa and Measure P

By BRUCE McCONNELL
Bruce McConnell is interim chief financial officer for the city of Santa Rosa.

Measure P — what is at stake? Only our current quality of life in Santa Rosa.

Like many of us in our community, the city of Santa Rosa has endured several years of catastrophic loss of revenues. Although the City Council managed this loss of revenues by reducing $22 million of annual general fund expenditures over the last two years and reduced the budget an additional $4.9 million, there still remains another $8 million shortfall in next year’s budget.

I could go on and on about the financial happenings at the city over the last three years. The amount of budget reductions accomplished, how much sacrifice, how many programs have been reduced or eliminated. What is important now is what do you, the citizens of Santa Rosa, want our community to evolve into over the next several years?

Regardless of the outcome of the upcoming Santa Rosa City Council election, there will be an $8 million budget shortfall to solve next year and an additional $2 million the year after. Yes, that is an additional $10 million of budget cuts that must be made unless a transitional general fund revenue source is available, such as Measure P.

Bruce McConnell.

If this happens, our city will take on the look and feel of a place where you will not want to raise your children. Our city will experience a significant decline in the quality of life for all of its citizens, regardless of the geographic area of town in which you reside.

In order for the city to successfully navigate out of this perfect financial storm, it needs time. With time, the City Council will be able to inject changes that will create positive outcomes. Without time, the only option for the City Council will be massive cuts to basic services provided to all of us.

Measure P provides time. It is a tax that ends. It is a tax that will only cost quarter-cent per dollar of taxable sales or 25 cents per $100 of taxable sales. It also taxes those who visit our community. Tourism, which brings in millions to this community, relies on a clean and safe city in order to attract visitors.

There will have to be changes even with the passage of Measure P. The new city manager working with the City Council will have to induce change. Issues ahead include reducing salary and benefit costs for city employees, attempting to reverse the unanticipated consequences of Measure A passed in 1996 — which removed the City Council’s authority to set salary amounts for our police and fire safety — and deciding which programs and services to reduce over time in order to balance the city budget.

These issues and more will have to be resolved even with the passage of Measure P. Give the new city manager, new chief financial officer and the City Council the opportunity to induce change and balance the budget in an orderly manner.

What do you want your city to look and feel like next year?

Is it worth a few dollars a month to maintain our quality of life, safety and provide positive alternatives for our youth? I think the answer is yes. Which means a yes vote on Measure P.






15 Responses to “GUEST OPINION: The stakes are high for Santa Rosa and Measure P”

  1. Cindy says:

    Bruce states the city’s plan is to reduce salary and benefit costs for city employees. I am a city employee who has had mandatory time off and pay cut! Do you think one police or fire or upper management employee has made any such concessions? Police and fire endorsed more than half of our current city council members! If the concern is for the future picture of Santa Rosa then lets start with their salary reductions!

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  2. Mike says:

    Quietly but firmly just vote NO on Measure P. The Santa Rosa City Council has not earned voter respect by their past policy and voting behavior. Tell us they just need a little more understanding and a little tax increase and they will fix things.

    If this group went to Vegas and gambled their own money, they would have to call home collect for bus fare.

    Get rid of the Council members who support this tax and replace the bureaucrats who advocate for it.

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  3. Dave Madigan says:

    I remember when it was a big deal that 12 of the top people at the City made over $100,000 a year. Now 446 people at the City make that much money. If these people are worth so much, why don’t they go to the private sector to earn that money?
    An easy solution would be to lower City salaries. Why not have a ballot measure that calls for the highest pay to be set at $100K for any City employee. That can include health insurance and benefits as well. I would be willing to bet that the measure would pass by a landslide!

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  4. Non-Safety City Worker says:

    @An Inconvenient Truth – I’m not sure of the figures of those making over 100K, but when I went to the site you mentioned, and selected top 10%, the names that came up were not from Santa Rosa… It was my understanding that most of Santa Rosa’s over 100K (75%?) were public safety employees, and a number of those were because of overtime. Head of departments, and other high level managers in other departments also make over 100K. It turns out is is cheaper to pay overtime to public safety employees than it is to hire additional staff because overtime does not increase health/retirement costs. The facts for non-safety employees are that 75% make between 30K and 75K.

    @Frank – inspectors etc, are mostly paid through building fees, but I don’t know the particulars in this case. You say we should cut administrators instead of Public Safety, yet you need some administrators to support public safety – who creates the paychecks, does the accounting, etc? Frankly, it is Public Safety that make up the majority of General Fund costs, and the rest have already been cut extensively.

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  5. RICHARD CANINI says:

    The Santa Rosa City Council promised not to spend general fund money on the Old Courthouse Square project.

    The Santa Rosa City Council spent general fund money on the Old Courthouse Square project.

    One can not trust them not spend general fund money on the square.

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  6. Frank says:

    @ Non-Safety City Worker
    you say
    The Bike statue cost the City nothing.

    so, no city engineer or inpectors, EIR, permits, were involved in the making or installation of this structure.
    rather then cut back on public safety programs, why not cut back on administration since none of the above were involved

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  7. Bradley Miller says:

    It’s all about budget priorities. Salaries in Santa Rosa are very high. One commenter calculated that a mere 6-7% pay cut across the board would take care of the shortfall. What’s wrong with that? The State has reduced their workers pay by 15%.

    If people vote to raise taxes and fees, will all of them be rescinded if and when the economy comes back? No. Even though the sales tax is supposed to sunset in 8 years, (why so long?), there are other taxes and fees that will go on indefinitely. Taxes are rarely reduced. No matter how much we give them, they will just keep asking for more.

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  8. An Inconvenient Truth says:

    Here is the real reason City Leaders need us to raise our taxes.

    According to the IRS (2008 Individual Income Tax Returns)…

    1. How much money do you make if your in the TOP 10% of all income earners in the US? Ans: $113,799

    1a. How many Santa Rosa City Employees are in this rich top 10 percentile for 2008? Ans: 373

    2. How much money do you make if your in the TOP 5% of all income earners in the US? Ans: $159,619

    2a. How many Santa Rosa City Employees are in this rich top 5 percentile for 2008? Ans: 101

    3. How many City Employees make more than $100,000? Ans: 446

    446 x $135,000 (est. Avg salary) =
    $60,210,000 PER YEAR.

    If the average salary was cut ONLY 13%, the city would save $8 MILLION per year. The average employee would then be making a “paltry” $117,000.

    Review the FACTS for yourself with the links provided below.

    City Leaders don’t need a tax increase, they need a reality check and permanent pay cuts. Vote NO on P!

    ————————————–
    IRS Income Tax Statistics for 2008 (current as of Oct 6, 2010)

    http://www.taxfoundation.org/news/show/250.html

    ————————————–

    City of Santa Rosa Top Earners 2008
    (current as of Feb 3, 2009)

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2009/02/03/santarosapay2008.DTL

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  9. Non-Safety City Worker says:

    @Voice of Reason(!?) – yes, they could probably get the money back from the RA, but that would only be a one-time fix, and put us more in the whole after that, since we will no longer be getting the loan repayments. Measure P has nothing to do with current City council, and frankly, I’m not voting for them either.

    @Richard – Measure P will go towards the General Fund. No General Fund money will go for the square reunification, if it goes forward in any form, which seems unlikely, except for possible re-arrangement of the streets, which would only involve transit grant money.

    @Frank – The Bike statue cost the City nothing.

    @Notutoo – I’m surprised you didn’t get cancer from swimming in the creek after all the stuff that has been dumped in there over the years. It is much cleaner now than it used to be. I also used to walk to school in my small town in Marin. No one does that there any more either… You’re dwelling on the \good ole days\ when you should be concerned about how we can make this a better place to live and raise our families.

    @Dave – yes, we have to live within a budget. Revenue has dropped drastically, and we have made huge cuts to balance our budget, and we will continue to do so. The only question is, what shall we cut next? We are already not spending enough to keep our roads from degrading – should we do as the County, and decide which we should let go to gravel? Should we reduce cops and fire fighters? Should we close the senior center? Pools? What? Sales and property tax has dropped, and the state continues to take money from us, this measure will help us continue to provide services to the public. You have a choice to make – either help us with our revenue, or choose what services we should stop providing.

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  10. Non-Safety City Worker says:

    @Voice of Reason(!?) – yes, they could probably get the money back from the RA, but that would only be a one-time fix, and put us more in the whole after that, since we will no longer be getting the loan repayments. Measure P has nothing to do with current City council, and frankly, I’m not voting for them either.

    @Richard – Measure P will go towards the General Fund. No General Fund money will go for the square reunification, if it goes forward in any form, which seems unlikely, except for possible re-arrangement of the streets, which would only involve transit grant money.

    @Frank – The Bike statue cost the City nothing.

    @Notutoo – I’m surprised you didn’t get cancer from swimming in the creek after all the stuff that has been dumped in there over the years. It is much cleaner now than it used to be. I also used to walk to school in my small town in Marin. No one does that there any more either… You’re dwelling on the “good ole days” when you should be concerned about how we can make this a better place to live and raise our families.

    @Dave – yes, we have to live within a budget. Revenue has dropped drastically, and we have made huge cuts to balance our budget, and we will continue to do so. The only question is, what shall we cut next? We are already not spending enough to keep our roads from degrading – should we do as the County, and decide which we should let go to gravel? Should we reduce cops and fire fighters? Should we close the senior center? Pools? What? Sales and property tax has dropped, and the state continues to take money from us, this measure will help us continue to provide services to the public. You have a choice to make.

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  11. Dave Madigan says:

    Not another dime for the City! Make them live within a budget just like all of us have to. No more games, no more pet projects.
    Vote No on P.

    Don’t Re-Elect Incumbent Politicians!
    DRIP on them!

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  12. NOTUTOO says:

    “What do you want your city to look and feel like next year?”

    That question is 35 years too late. Santa Rosa used to be bicycle friendly, enviromentaly healthy, and just a great place to grow up. I rode my bicycle every day to school through 10th grade, swam in Santa Rosa creek, cruised 4th St., knew the first names of all the cops, got registered at the SRJC in 20 minutes, Now it’s a sprawling gang infested crime zone. You can’t do anything to Santa Rosa that hasn’t already been done. But you could try and not waste our tax dollars.

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  13. Frank says:

    how much did the pointy tall obscene krushed bike frames on Santa Rosa Ave. cost the city ?.

    If this happens, our city will take on the look and feel of a place where you will not want to raise your children. i live in the SW section of Santa Rosa. have a look nothing has change in 20 years just gets worse

    so all those other taxes!, car fees for city , county and state parks and this 1/4 cent sales tax are going to make my kids feel good, a little less of something?
    Fire City Council

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  14. RICHARD CANINI says:

    The problem: “$8 million shortfall in next year’s budget…an additional $2 million the year after.” – Bruce McConnell interim chief financial officer for the city of Santa Rosa.

    The solution: Santa Rosa can save more than $10 million by delaying the Old Courthouse Square parking lot cum reunification project.

    No need to thank me. Happy to help our fair city and the tax payers. Most citizens are not in favor of this project any ways.

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  15. Voice of Reason says:

    Santa Rosa doesn’t need more sales taxes. They have $6.6 million just sitting at the redevelopment agency that they could get back. They’re just greedy. If they would just quit wasting money on non-essential projects, there would be sufficient funds to run the city.

    They are also getting sued again, this time for the unconstitutional Special Tax District where they force homebuilders to vote their property into the district to get a building permit. The Pacific Legal Foundation has taken the case and they are good.

    The 4 person council majority has also run off good businesses that would have generated sales taxes and jobs for the city. Passing this regressive tax would just be throwing good money after bad. They will not use it wisely. The only way this city can learn to properly prioritize their spending is if we refuse to give them anymore money.

    Don’t reward this council for bad behavior, send a message, No on P.

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