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Rohnert Park sales tax extension headed for ballot


In what had become an increasingly foregone development, the Rohnert Park City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to ask city voters to extend Measure E, a half-cent sales tax that was passed in 2010 and originally intended to expire in 2015.

“I believe that the community believes in us just as we believe in the community,” said Vice-Mayor Joe Callinan. “They stood behind us in 2010 and I hope they’ll stand behind us again.”

Rohnert Park City Hall.

Rohnert Park City Hall.

The election for the extension is to be set for Nov. 5. A “yes” vote would extend the tax measure permanently, or until voters overturn it or the council suspends it. It needs a majority vote to pass. In 2010 it won 55 percent to 45 percent, lifting the city’s sales tax rate to 9.5 percent.

When Measure E was passed, the city faced a $5 million general fund deficit. That has since been cut to a still-daunting $1.4 million during a period in which the number of city employees was slashed from about 190 to 148.

City Manager Gabe Gonzalez made the case Tuesday for seeking an extension. He pointed to the remaining deficit and raised the specter that losing the more than $3 million a year that Measure E brings in would disastrously impact city services.

The sales tax revenue “is essential to the viability of the city and our quality of life,” Gonzalez said.

He and the council have assiduously laid the groundwork for such a move for more than a year.

Gonzalez floated the idea in early 2012. The council, at his urging, in June declared a fiscal crisis, a necessary condition to holding a special election to ask for the extension. They set aside $25,000 toward an election. And they commissioned a survey that found that two-thirds of citizens would support the extension bid.

On Tuesday, Councilman Jake Mackenzie said extending the tax would be, in part, a recognition of “the distribution of sales tax up and down the (Highway) 101 corridor.”

He cited the Target Store opening today in Petaluma as a development that threatens to draw revenue from the city.

“That’s the giant sucking sound of sales tax dollars going to Petaluma, not into the city of Rohnert Park,” he said.

City officials repeatedly pressed the point that extending the measure was not raising taxes — rather, it would extend a tax that had already been raised.

In his four-page report to the council, Assistant City Manager Darrin Jenkins repeated that point six times. Gonzalez emphasized it in his presentation. And Mayor Pam Stafford said, “We aren’t asking folks to spend more than they already are — we’re asking them to support what we have, that’s extremely important.”

Councilwoman Gina Belforte was absent.

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

7 Responses to “Rohnert Park sales tax extension headed for ballot”

  1. David Stubblebine says:

    The casino is paying for it.

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  2. 0 Representation says:

    Costs for everything have gone up for everybody not just the city of Rohnert Park but the regular person has to make do with what they have. If services are cut any further than something is very wrong.

    I personally think the City of Rohnert Park lacks proper prospective when budgeting or spending. Or maybe it’s the leadership. ? Half of the funds for the sewage pipes could have been spent without cleaning the city out. Also why are the taxpayers paying for Wilford aka now as Golf Course Drive West when the casino should be paying for it.

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  3. David Stubblebine says:

    I wholeheartedly agree that the City’s spending budget must be within their earnings and that Rohnert Park does not have the best track record on this point, but that is an argument for limiting the spending not for limiting earnings. Costs are going up all around us and that includes the City’s costs; limiting the City’s ability to cover these increases can only lead to reduced services.

    I am not a rabid casino opponent, but I do recognize that a goose that lays golden eggs may start laying smaller eggs or even die altogether, so I believe the City’s long-term fiscal health demands finding strategies that do not leave the City wholly dependent on the casino.

    Also: It was the sewer rates that went up, not the water rates, and water-sewer revenues are a separate pot of money that (by law) cannot cover other City services and cannot be blended with the money this sales tax would raise; this is an irrelevant argument.

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  4. 0 Representation says:

    No matter what the city receives in property tax you don’t budget spending unless you have the income to make it balance. The city of Rohnert Park says it’s running in the red. How is that possible? Our water rates were raised because the city was broke. Last time this extra sales tax came up they threatened to close the senior center because they were broke. Obviously the city knows who votes. Now the casino is opening up and they have a huge contract signed… but still they are broke. Well City of Rohnert Park quit crying wolf. We’ve had enough. Balance your budget on the income you receive!

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  5. Phil Maher says:

    I’ve already taken my spending elsewhere. Nor do I spend money in Cotati, who’s bound to follow suit. But, I will pledge a dollar a day to both if they can figure out some way in which to hide them from my view as I drive past them on 101. Just build a few more casinos. They’ll fit right in.

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  6. David Stubblebine says:

    Since Rohnert Park gets a smaller slice of their own property taxes than comparable cities, examining other revenue streams is not only appropriate but essential.

    This is a modest tax that should never have been temporary to start with. Maintaining this tax does two important things: It allows Rohnert Park to spread its tax burden beyond just Rohnert Park residents to the Penngrove and Petaluma shoppers who come to Rohnert Park; and it reduces (slightly) the dependency on Casino money (which is already large).

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  7. 0 Representation says:

    If this sales tax extension gets approved now it will be here to stay. People please be sure to vote in this next election. Enough is enough. Let these city officials know we have to live within our means. Why can’t the city of Rohnert Park?

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