Healdsburg’s financial fortune seems to have reversed overnight Monday. A new look at the city budget shows a $1 million ending balance in this year’s general fund, instead of an anticipated deficit.
Healdsburg Mayor Gary Plass has raised more than $10,000 in his bid for re-election, outpacing the five other candidates combined in the City Council race, most of whom planned to collect and spend less than $1,000. To Plass, the contributions are a way to pay for the hefty cost of mailing his campaign fliers to voters, something his rivals are not doing.
In a public presentation that was intended to avoid advocacy, Healdsburg officials on Tuesday said the proposed half-cent sales tax hike on next week’s election ballot will help avoid deep cuts to core services. City Manager Marjie Pettus said Measure V, which would raise an estimated $1 million annually for 10 years, ‘will help us maintain services and put programs and services that were previously cut back into the budget.’
A Town Hall meeting next week on a proposed sales tax increase in Healdsburg is billed as strictly informational, hosted by city staff to explain the ballot measure. But Tim Meinken, the only City Council candidate opposed to the sales tax hike, is skeptical that top city officials can give a balanced presentation on the topic. ‘I find it hard to believe they will present just the facts,’ said Meinken, who was rebuffed in his request to be a speaker at Tuesday’s 6 p.m. meeting at City Hall.
If there’s a consensus in the Healdsburg City Council race, it’s that more needs to be done to rein in the cost of employee pensions. The two incumbents seeking re-election, Tom Chambers and Gary Plass, say they’ve made inroads by instituting less generous retirement packages for new employees and getting current workers to pay more toward their pension programs. But the incumbents bristle at criticism from challengers who say the savings that comes from implementing a second tier of cheaper pensions for future employees will take years to realize, and do little to address the shortfall for when current employees retire.