WatchSonoma Watch

Petaluma City Council to weigh tax increases



Petaluma City Council members Monday will discuss placing two taxes on the November ballot: A parcel tax to help pay for parks and a sales tax increase to fund city services.

The parcel tax on all property owners already has qualified for the ballot. The group Petaluma Friends of Recreation gathered enough valid signatures to place the item before voters. The council will formally vote to submit it for the countywide election.

The sales tax issue is more controversial.

All but one of the seven council members has expressed willingness to ask voters if they want to tax themselves to pay for such things as road repairs, police and fire services, storm water maintenance costs and programs for the poor or elderly.

But it isn’t clear whether voters will be on board. For the past three weeks, city staffers and council members have been seeking input.

The feedback has been mixed.

Councilman Mike Healy commissioned a telephone poll, which he said showed about 68 percent support for a half-cent sales tax for eight years to pay for essential city services like police, fire and streets. That support includes those who said they are “very supportive” and “somewhat supportive” of such a tax.

A poll conducted by the Argus-Courier newspaper showed the opposite. Two-thirds of the 80 respondents opposed any tax.

A committee of the local Chamber of Commerce supported a tax, but cautioned that it didn’t speak for the board or the general membership.

The city received only a half-dozen letters about the issue, five of which were opposed.

During meetings in June, council members appeared to favor a half-cent general purpose tax with a sunset after 8 years. That would provide about $5 million annually. Proceeds would go into the general fund, the budget that pays for most city services, salaries and benefits.

It would give the council broad discretion over how to spend it, with little details about which programs or services would benefit. It requires a simple majority for passage.

A special-purpose tax would require that specific recipients be identified to voters and the money be spent only on those services. A special tax requires two-thirds voter approval.

Some council members have been leery of placing a special tax measure before voters because of that higher hurdle. Yet some residents have expressed misgivings about handing the council $5 million annually without guarantees on how it can be spent.

Aug. 10 is the deadline for placing a measure on the November ballot. If the council approves a sales tax measure on Monday, it would return with formal wording at the Aug. 6 council meeting.

The parcel tax measure will ask voters to approve a $52 annual tax for 15 years on single-family residences, more for other types of parcels. Senior citizens will be exempt.

The organizer expects $12 million will be generated by the tax. Proceeds would be earmarked for several specific parks projects throughout town and leveraged with bond proceeds that would pay for longer term maintenance.

The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at 11 English St.

Contact Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 762-7297 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com.


8 Responses to “Petaluma City Council to weigh tax increases”

  1. Jim says:

    This endless seeking of more tax “revenue” is an epidemic. Government s all over the country whine and cry about not having enough money. Yet the WASTE is beyond comprehension.

    Remember the GSA PARTY in Las Vegas on the taxpayer dime? Probably not, it was buried very quickly by the media. They’re at it again…

    Yet, MORE tax money is needed right? Look at the stories on this site…Petaluma needs more money, as does Sebastopol, Healdsburg, etc, etc. Did anyone read about the soon-to-be-studied Vehicle Miles Traveled Tax, where the Bay Area wants to TAX people up to $.10 per mile driven!!! ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME??

    Defend the “maintenance worker’s retirement” all you want. I’m not going to argue about why it makes no sense to pay a “maintenance worker”, or ANYONE, for life. That is beyond ludicrous. The endless theft of citizen earned income to fuel waste at the government level keeps increasing. This isn’t “rich” against “poor”, it is about theft by politicians to fund bribery for their re-election, unnecessary programs and excessive waste.

  2. Richard says:

    Do you hear that sucking sound? AH HA,I it the sound of the money being sucked out of everything to complete and run that SMART train. Already so far over budget will run half of the the distance promised and still does not really go where the people go. And why are diesel engines that are used on the SMART Train called “Clean Diesel” all other diesel engines are ruining the enviroment? Kinda convenient.

  3. Council not trustworthy says:

    Just to be clear I will not vote to approve this tax increase. I will not vote for it because the Petaluma City Council is a dysfunctional quagmire of special interest groups. They cannot be trusted to spend it propery. A council that obsesses over painting bike lanes while the streets crumble does not deserve more money. You cannot fight new business and complain that you need more taxes, simple as that.

    I do not choose to blame the city workers as many of you seem to want to do. The Counci has wasted enough money to pay them all triple what they make now. We need to take a hard look at what our Council chooses to do before we go after some maintenance worker’s retirement.

  4. Jim says:


    ALL new/increased taxes should be rejected. There is plenty of money stolen from the economy to run the bloated government. The problem is waste not lack of money. From redundant departments, overstaffing, excessive salaries and absurd benefits (including pensions), the government is too fiscally irresponsible to legitimately argue they need more money.

  5. Jim Bennett says:

    I bet I know which choice will carry more weight.

    In an ICLEI town, if they’re not genuinely broke, they will portray to the public that they are.

    Then wait a while, they will be.

    That’s their assignment.

    Crash. The town and the people.

    Install Smart Growth. Implement ICLEI public utility and public land, and property rights shenanigans. Misappropriate. Sabotage small business and automobile use. Watch enelected boards and commissions make important detrimental decisions.

    Hey, it’s not easy. It takes a thick skin. You have to hold your resolve, act like you know what’s best. Screw your neighbors while acting credible, with a straight face amid constituents employing ‘common sense’. You think it’s easy to ignore people that trusted you to look after their interests?

    See ‘em at the market?

    Ignore them.

    It takes a special kind of person.

    Not everybody has what it takes.

  6. Snarky says:

    Since the Press Democrat intentionally failed to report on the mere 1% investment return of California’s largest public employee pension fund, CalPers, Press Demo readers might not understand that huge increases in taxes are necessary to help the cities and state of California to pay our money into that pension system.

  7. Jim says:

    Hey look, I just turned around and there is ANOTHER tax consideration. Seems every time I turn around there is another attempt by overspending, fiscally irresponsible morons trying to take more money from the people.

    Am I the only one that is sick of this? Need money for the “parks”? For “city services”? Hmmm, I wonder whether this has anything to do with the story (that was buried by the media) that Calpers made 1% rather than the absurdly projected 7.5%, and is now expected to ask municipalities to contribute MORE for retirees. Nah, couldn’t be related.

    I find it funny how the Petaluma City Dopes want to raise sales tax while fighting for decades for every new business that wants to open in the city.

    Yep, keep voting in the same overspending thieves and enjoy the insanity. This is happening at every level of government.

    You want higher taxes…wait until Obama is re-elected!!

  8. RICHARD says:

    RE:”.. parcel tax .. sales tax increase ..”

    Both taxes are regressive: those with less play proportionally more. A one bedroom townhouse will pay as much as a mansion, shopping center, or car dealership. Those with lower income pay a greater portion of that income in sales tax than those with higher incomes.

    Because these taxes are regressive they ought be rejected.

    There is a better way to reduce government’s budget problem.