By JEREMY HAY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Rohnert Park officials are gingerly exploring the idea of asking voters to extend a temporary sales tax that has been critical to restoring the city’s finances.
Rohnert Park residents approved Measure E — a five-year, half-cent tax — in 2010. It took full effect this year and is projected to bring in $2.4 million. It has helped draw down the city’s deficit to $330,000 from $2 million last year.
City Manager Gabe Gonzalez, who introduced the tax extension at budget discussions this week, said he is just being “prudent and pro-active.”
“I’m not proposing that we do an extension at this time, “ he said Thursday. “I’m simply bringing to light to the fact that we still have a structural deficit and Measure E is going to sunset in 3-1/2 years.”
City Councilmembers expressed varying degrees of reluctance, generally agreeing it’s too early to seriously consider.
“By this time next yer we should be in a position to know whether we should pursue this,” Mayor Jake Mackenzie said.
A close look at the economy and city revenue and commercial development trends is needed first, he said.
“There is a sunset on it for a reason,” Councilwoman Gina Belforte said. She too called for an analysis of economic trends.
Factors including the impact of the Green Music Center and commercial developments in Petaluma should be factored in, she said.
It was right to broach the subject, she said.
“Our finance department and our city manager are working so diligently to make sure we are ahead of the eight-ball not behind the eight-ball,” she said.
Voters would be wary of proposals to extend a tax that was sold as being temporary, Councilman Amy Ahanotu said, but that’s not a reason to reject the idea.
“Anything that has to do with raising taxes, voters are not in favor of it,” he said. “However, if you can show the benefits that will be generated, I think they are always open.”