Healdsburg is undergoing a deliberate soul-searching exercise as it struggles with the tension between tourism, the needs of local residents and the town’s future direction.
The Healdsburg City Council on Monday approved a temporary contract with Sonoma County to take over responsibility for animal control, prompted by the imminent closure of the independently-run Healdsburg Animal Shelter.
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.
A closed-door session of the Healdsburg City Council that was cancelled at the last minute has generated more questions about the status of Saggio Hills, the planned housing and luxury hotel development at the north edge of town.
Healdsburg voters will get a chance to decide whether to ease growth restrictions put in place more than a dozen years ago, but it likely won’t be until 2014. The City Council on Monday unanimously approved a draft ordinance that proposes to loosen growth limits approved in 2000 by voters under so-called Measure M.
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.
The Healdsburg City Council this week authorized the refinancing of some of the city’s employee pension debt, in a move estimated to save $900,000 over a decade. The City Council on a 3-0 vote approved the issuance of up to $9 million in bonds to pay off a ‘side-fund debt’ that the city owes CalPERS, the public employee retirement system.
Healdsburg voters will have two extra issues to ponder when they fill out their ballots in November, including whether to increase the sales tax by half a percentage point.