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Petaluma police union won’t back proposed sales tax increase

By LORI A. CARTER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The Petaluma police union has come out against a proposed sales tax increase the City Council may place on the November ballot.

The council is divided on whether to ask voters to increase the current 8 percent tax by either a quarter- or a half-percent — or whether to seek an increase at all.

A Petaluma Police checkpoint in 2009. (PD FILE)

Mayor David Glass and Council members Teresa Barrett and Mike Harris said they opposed seeking any increase in the sales tax in November. Chris Albertson, Mike Healy and Tiffany Renee favored an increase, likely a half-cent hike that would raise $5 million annually for general city services.

Gabe Kearney said he personally supported an increase but doubted it would get voter approval.

The council was set to meet Aug. 6 to make a final decision after receiving more public input. But late Wednesday, the city called a special meeting for 5:15 p.m. Thursday to discuss the issue.

City attorneys were researching whether calling for a sales-tax increase ballot measure requires a supermajority vote of the council, or five of seven members. If so, the issue may die before seeing a ballot box.

Meanwhile, even a simple majority vote seemed to be increasingly unlikely, given the police opposition. Kearney on Wednesday said he was leaning against voting for a tax increase.

“I have a hard time wrapping my hands around us being able to pass it, so how can I vote for something I don’t have faith will pass?” he said. “How will I vote for something that will cost us $30,000 to (put on the ballot), knowing it’s probably not going to pass?

“But, believe me, I desperately think we need this. There’s definitely the need there. People just don’t want to pay.”

Paul Gilman, president of the Police Officers Association of Petaluma, said his union, which represents about 80 members, believes “the citizens of Petaluma should say where and how their money is spent.”

The proceeds of a general purpose tax, requiring a simple majority of voter approval, would go into the city’s general fund, the budget that pays for most city salaries, benefits and services. It could be spent for any purpose the council decides.

Funds from a special tax would be earmarked for specific purposes. A special tax requires a two-thirds majority to pass, considered a high bar.

“These are tough times and we cannot endorse asking the public for additional funding without a cohesive and well-established plan to ensure that any new funding is used for what the public intended,” Gilman said in a written statement. “We do not believe that we can give the public those assurances in the short amount of time the city would have to bring a funding measure to the ballot.”

The city needs to invest in public safety, he said, but also infrastructure like street repairs.

Councilman Mike Healy acknowledged Wednesday without the active support of public safety personnel, who make up a large portion of the city workforce, it would be difficult for a tax measure to succeed.

The special meeting is set for 5:15 p.m. at City Hall, 11 English St.

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





5 Responses to “Petaluma police union won’t back proposed sales tax increase”

  1. Joe says:

    They are probably opposing the tax increase because it was not ear marked for them, but for other things the city really needs. So why would they back this tax increase????? Look at all of the other cities in the area they are handing P/S everything and giving them wage increases while everyone else around them is taking cuts or are making departmental cuts, share the sacrifice P/S!!!! I thought everyone was in this together……….

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  2. Dan Drummond says:

    This is kind of an interesting position for the police officers to take. Given that a general tax would have added to the general fund, which in substantial measure would have been used for police salaries and other benefits, their opposition seems to suggest that either they don’t make that connection, or that they’re not willing to share the general tax proceeds with other employee groups. It seems they would prefer a special tax that dedicates 100% of the tax proceeds to police.

    Given the new two-year police contracts just signed (and fire, also) under which the current group of officers continue to enjoy the same level of compensation, health and pension benefits without making any contribution toward reining in their out-of-control pension costs, their sudden, new-found concern that voters should have a say in where tax dollars are spent rings hollow.

    And given further that the new contract adopts as it’s only effort toward pension reform a two-tier plan that imposes 100% of the sacrifice on our children and grandchildren who will fill these second tier slots, one begins to see that the police officers are first and foremost concerned with their own paychecks and have little regard for the community or future generations of police and firefighters.

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  3. BigDogatPlay says:

    Well when the city is getting ready to spend however many millions of dollars on the latest downtown “road diet” while:

    * The streets in my neighborhood continue to fracture and rut.
    * The police department has to run checkpoints, and blizzard tickets at a couple of well known “cherry patch” locations, to make enough money to buy equipment and keep it on the road.

    My confidence in what the city council may, or may not, accomplish continues to decline.

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  4. Refreshing says:

    Pretty refreshing to see a union not grabbing at money. Sounds like they don’t trust the Council anymore than I do. I might vote for a small tax increase but I want an iron clad contract on where the money goes.

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  5. RICHARD says:

    ” The Petaluma police union has come out against a proposed sales tax increase the City Council may place on the November ballot.”

    …………………………………

    ” The city needs to invest in public safety, he [ Paul Gilman, president of the Police Officers Association of Petaluma ] said, but also infrastructure like street repairs.”

    Connect the dots.

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