With 5,100 signers, parcel tax goes to November vote
By LORI A. CARTER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Supporters of a proposed parcel tax in Petaluma appear to have gathered enough signatures to qualify the measure for the November ballot.
Petaluma Friends of Recreation this week turned in about 5,100 signatures, 65 percent more than the 3,100 needed for qualification, said committee co-chairwoman Carol Eber.
“I am thrilled at the support we got from the community,” she said. “Our target was 4,600 to account for any errors that might occur. So we did that and more.”
The county registrar of voters has 30 working days to verify the validity of signatures, said Assistant Registrar Gloria Colter. Election workers are finalizing the results of the June 5 primary but will begin examining the Petaluma signatures soon.
The measure would create a $52 annual parcel tax for 15 years, which organizers say will raise $12 million. It would fund improvements to a range of recreational facilities, from walking trails to the community pool to athletic fields at local parks. The tax, to be charged to property owners as an assessment on annual property-tax bills, would need a two-thirds majority to pass because proceeds are restricted to a specific purpose.
The plan calls for leveraging the tax revenues by selling bonds that will help pay for long-term maintenance of the facilities. The committee chose projects that already had some funding.
The single largest recipient of the tax revenue would be $6.1 million for East Washington Park, a planned 25-acre complex on city-owned land that would feature three all-weather fields for soccer, football, baseball and lacrosse.
The city has paid for the project design, but funding stalled as the city’s budget shrank in the past several years.
“We’ve been trying to get the city to build East Washington Park for five or six years,” said Kevin McDonnell, past president of Petaluma Youth Soccer. “This will help.”
Other projects include:
— $2.1 million to expand Prince Park for all-ages activities.
— $1.3 million for the Petaluma Community Centers, including repair of the roof.
— $750,000 to create accessible playgrounds, resurface tennis courts and renovate park facilities.
— $500,000 for renovation of the David Yearsley River Heritage Center.
— $500,000 for continued renovation of the Polly Klaas center;
— $350,000 for resurfacing trails and adding new trails for hiking, running and biking.
— $300,000 to renovate the swim center.
The committee also sought to keep the issue apolitical by drafting ballot language that calls for an oversight committee of citizens to be appointed by the city parks commission — not the City Council.
“There is a lot of interest in transparency and oversight,” Eber said. Organizers told people: “These are the projects. This is where it’s going. This is the oversight committee. That assuaged some of the concerns,” she said.
(Contact Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 762-7297 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)