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.
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.