By CLARK MASON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Healdsburg soon will reap extra revenue from a half-cent sales tax increase approved by voters. But how should that million bucks or so be spent?
The answer from a survey of residents was overwhelmingly clear: fix the streets.
Taking direction from the 428 responses in the survey, City Council members agreed last week to spend half the new revenue on street maintenance.
Fixing potholes, repaving roads and constructing sidewalks rose to the top of the suggestions from citizens.
“It was the resounding response we got not just in the survey but (in) conversations with people,” Mayor Susan Jones said.
Public Works Director Mike Kirn said that Healdsburg’s 45 miles of streets are considered to be in good condition overall. But some are in poor to very poor shape.
“We do have some that are in worse shape than others,” he said.
He said the city currently spends about $200,000 annually on streets, but there is a $10 million backlog of maintenance.
In a survey, almost nine out of 10 respondents favored spending some of the new tax money on roads or sidewalks.
Asked how much of each dollar should pay for streets, the weighted average was 44 cents, according to Kirn.
Healdsburg voters in November approved Measure V, the half-cent sales tax increase to help bolster the city’s general fund.
The increase, which is good for 10 years, took effect April 1 and raised the sales tax in Healdsburg to 8.75 percent.
In promoting the measure, city officials said the extra revenue would be spent according to City Council funding priorities including public safety, street and sidewalk repair, economic development and deferred maintenance of city facilities such as the senior center, Villa Chanticleer and the library.
Jones said the proceeds from Measure V won’t be spent until the 2014-15 fiscal year, even though the council has decided now that half should go to streets.
“Over the next several months, public works will put together a plan on what streets are in most need of being repaired,” Jones said. “They’ll bring that to the council with estimates of what it will cost, and we will decide on direction.”
Along with half for streets, council members tentatively decided that 20 percent of the new tax revenue should go to police and fire, 20 percent to economic development, and 10 percent to deferred maintenance of public buildings.
Councilman Gary Plass said the economic development could be a $200,000 annual subsidy of the the Chamber of Commerce.
The city previous funneled redevelopment money to the chamber for its programs before the state eliminated that source.
You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or firstname.lastname@example.org.