WatchSonoma Watch

Rohnert Park paving way to put sales tax renewal on fall ballot


Facing a $1.4 million budget deficit, Rohnert Park officials have in recent weeks laid the groundwork to ask voters later this year to extend Measure E, the half-cent city sales tax they approved in 2010.

The City Council has declared a fiscal emergency, the necessary condition for a special election; set aside $25,000 for such an election; and commissioned an opinion poll to gauge residents’ sentiments about renewing the tax originally meant to end in 2015.

rohnertpark2City Manager Gabe Gonzalez, who first floated the idea of an extension last year, said no official discussions about doing so are underway and that examining the possibility is just due diligence for a city with financial difficulties.

But the opinion poll results reviewed by the council on Tuesday concluded explicitly that “a measure to continue the existing … sales tax measure for city services is viable for the Nov. 2013 election.”

The poll of 376 residents cost about $30,000, Gonzalez said. It found that 69 percent of those interviewed would support extending the tax. Measure E passed with 55 percent of the vote and brought in 14 percent of the city’s discretionary funds this year. It is projected to bring in $3.2 million next year.

Gloria Colter, assistant county registrar of voters, said a special election could cost between $46,940 and $84,492, based on Rohnert Park’s 18,776 registered voters.

Councilman Jake Mackenzie on Wednesday all but said voters will be asked to renew the tax.

“I’m not prepared to say absolutely, 100 percent yes, but I think logic would tell you that having asked these questions … we want to know what the likelihood of success would be,” he said. “We’ve found that the likelihood of success is high.”

The Sonoma County Taxpayers Association would have to study it further to decide whether to support or oppose any extension pitch, said the group’s president, Dan Drummond.

But Drummond said his initial reaction was disappointment.

“It’s part of the continuing pattern where elected officials make representations to voters that they’re not going to keep,” he said, referring to Measure E’s sunset provision.

But Gonzalez, whom the taxpayer association last year recognized for helping restore the city’s fiscal solvency, said, “It’s something we need to be talking about; we’re going to have a $3 million hole in our budget once it sunsets.”

The survey was a boost for city officials in several ways, with respondents expressing a sunnier view of the city’s direction and leadership than was found in a survey in 2009, when the city was wrestling with a $10 million deficit.

The survey four years ago found that just 45 percent of residents said the city was on the right track, while 34 percent said it was on the wrong track.

The new survey found that 67 percent of residents thought the city was headed in the right direction, while 21 percent thought it was on the wrong track.

Opinions of the City Council had improved, too, with respondents giving it a 67 percent favorable rating, compared to 49 percent in 2009.

And the city government as a whole is now held in dramatically higher regard, according to the survey: it now has a 70 percent favorable rating compared to 21 percent in 2009.

(You can reach Staff Writer Jeremy Hay at 521-5212 or jeremy.hay@pressdemocrat.com.)

6 Responses to “Rohnert Park paving way to put sales tax renewal on fall ballot”

  1. The Hammer says:

    You just don’t get it. It’s a handful of city leaders, in all the cities, that push for more of your bucks so they can go on their spending sprees. This will be a real test for the residents of Rohnert Park to see if they have grasped reality yet. Good Luck.

  2. sick tired says:

    If you are so curios as to the short fall, call your city up and ask them how many new jobs have been added for assisting the city manager.
    At compensation rates like those it is no wonder there is “Pension envy”.

    You as a resident need to demand, a summary of what the tax will go to pay for…..Make them track it Rather than at the discretion of city council. …..

    Is it to pay for things like keeping our pools open……. or just more $30k polls… or to add positions to track casino money, increase management staff, or pad “At Will” employee contracts ?

  3. sick tired says:

    The Rohnert Park City Manager’s Office is seeking a Senior Analyst to perform complex analysis supporting the City’s implementation of three (3) mitigation intergovernmental agreements related to a nearby Indian casino project. The agreements are interrelated and affect each other through complex relationships. In total, there are over 300 pages of legal agreements governing the distribution of approximately $60 million dollars per year. The agreements are detailed and complicated with numerous strict deadlines requiring interaction and close coordination between the City of Rohnert Park, Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, State of California, and County of Sonoma. Implementing these agreements and protecting the City’s interest to the fullest extent possible will require a dedicated individual with a unique combination of financial, analytical, administrative, and negotiating skills. The position will also assist with public information, reporting on the use of mitigation funds, revenue tracking, cost accounting, crime statistic tracking, impact assessment, and other measures related to the casino. This position requires a high degree of initiative and independent thinking to take steps necessary to proactively ensure the City’s financial interests are protected. In addition, the incumbent will support the City Manager’s Office with analysis needed to support other City management functions.

    $38.41 – $46.69 Hourly
    $6,657.00 – $8,093.00 Monthly
    $79,884.00 – $97,116.00 Annually

    This is where your money is going

    And with no accounting for where the sales tax goes I will not be adding anymore money to their coffers

  4. David says:

    They called me and I told them no more taxes om both occasions. Temp taxes never go away and the city need more spending cuts before tax revenues are increased.

  5. Reality Check says:

    “The poll of 376 residents cost about $30,000 . . .”

    Divide $30,000 by 376 and look at the answer.

    Even assuming the pollster had to call several people for each poll respondent, this is one expensive poll.

  6. Lynn Hodges says:

    What a joke? Where is all the money going? SR and Petaluma are no longer running at a deficit and they don’t have casino revenue and extra sales tax. I won’t vote for the measure and will actively campaign against it. See the waste in city hall……fire truck parked where a hot air balloon went down, engine running for over a hour or the repaving of roads that didn’t need it. Until you stop the waste not a dime more of my money. Can’t wait for Target and other shops to open up in Petaluma. Will be buying all my gas, food, clothes and goods in Petaluma.