By GARY PLASS and JIM WOOD
This is in response to the Saturday editorial titled “Timing is wrong for local sales tax hikes.” We strongly disagree. Healdsburg’s Measure V is necessary for the ongoing fiscal health of the city.
As the recent recession began to fade and cities started to see improvement in economic trends, the state of California abolished redevelopment agencies. This occurred after years of state raids on funding that was due to be paid to cities.
Healdsburg would not be what it is today without the activities of its redevelopment agency. We were in the process of moving forward with many important business and infrastructure projects vital to the future of the community. Yet, with the stroke of a pen, one critical tool we had to stimulate local economic development and increase revenue for the city’s recovery was gone.
After significantly reducing operational expenses, department reorganizations, cuts to personnel, frozen salaries and as much pension reform as allowed by state law, the City Council realized it cannot simply cut the city out of this downturn. Without a source of revenue that cannot be taken by the state, we will be forced to make deeper cuts into core city services.
The City Council unanimously agreed to put Measure V before the voters. Measure V is a half-cent sales tax increase that would bring the Healdsburg tax rate in line with other Sonoma county cities.
If approved, the measure would be in place for 10 years. Annual reporting requirements have been incorporated into Measure V to ensure accountability.
Voters would know exactly how the additional tax revenues are spent each year. In addition, citizens would have an opportunity to provide input regarding the allocation of these funds during the annual budget process.
Priorities for the expenditure of Measure V revenues have been identified as public safety, street/sidewalk maintenance and repair, economic development and deferred maintenance of city facilities.
Preserving police and fire services is a primary objective. Both departments are currently at minimum staffing levels, which has led to delayed response times and the elimination of programs.
The deferred maintenance of our streets is evidenced by the potholes and temporary patches.
Perhaps more important, utilizing Measure V funds for economic development will stimulate business activity and facilitate in the expansion of the city’s overall economic base. It is the growth of our local economy that will provide revenues to sustain city services over time.
The City Council will continue to look for opportunities to reorganize, streamline and improve services to the public. Passage of Measure V will not deter the City Council’s efforts to cut the city’s operating budget and make changes to the way we conduct business.
As your representatives, council members take their responsibility to move toward financial stability seriously.
This includes our ongoing obligation to address pension and health costs as well as the legislation that limits our ability to control personnel costs.
Measure V is a solid investment in our community.
Gary Plass is mayor of Healdsburg, and Jim Wood is a member of the Healdsburg City Council.