By CLARK MASON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Healdsburg voters likely would support a half-cent sales tax to help maintain city services, a city-paid poll found.
Sixty-seven percent of those responding leaned toward or said they would probably or definitely approve the sales tax increase on the condition that the tax expired after five to 10 years.
The proposed tax increase would raise Healdsburg’s sales tax from the current 8 percent to 8.5 percent to pay for police and fire services, roads, sidewalks and parks and recreation programs.
The City Council was scheduled Monday night to discuss putting the proposal on the November ballot, but with only three of five council members present, the matter was postponed until April 2.
“It’s important to talk about it with the full council present and with public input,” Mayor Gary Plass said.
The poll comes at a time when Healdsburg is projected to have a $1 million deficit by the end of June, when this fiscal year ends, in its $7 million general fund, almost all of which goes for police and fire services.
Plass said the poll appears at first to show there is sufficient support for the tax increase, but once analyzed further, support seems lukewarm.
“It depends on how you interpret the results,” Plass said. “I’m hoping to get cross tabulations and the consultant’s insight.”
Councilwoman Susan Jones said the city needs to be sensitive on how increasing the sales tax will affect businesses, as well as consumers who are being squeezed by stagnant wages and increasing costs.
Raising the sales tax to 8.5 percent would put Healdsburg on par with Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park and Cotati.
The poll did produce a more definitive response on another potential tax involving the Healdsburg Memorial Bridge.
There was little support for a possible parcel tax to rehabilitate and maintain the historic bridge. More than two-thirds of respondents, or 69 percent, said they were definitely against, probably against or leaning against a $29 parcel tax and a one-time payment of about $460 per parcel to fix the bridge. Only 27 percent favored the proposal.
Bridge preservationist over the past few years convinced the City Council to save the 1921 span rather than replace it with a modern bridge. While most of the retrofit would be paid for with federal funds, the city’s ability to pay its $1 million share is in question after the state ended redevelopment programs.
The poll was conducted Feb 22 to 26 and involved more than 400 respondents. It had a margin of error of 4 to 5 percent, City Manager Marjie Pettus said.
The city paid $25,000 for the poll, which was conducted by the Santa Monica firm of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates.
The City Council in 2008 considered placing a sales tax increase before voters but decided not to to avoid competing with a tax measure for the SMART commuter trains.
You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or firstname.lastname@example.org