Sonoma voters gave overwhelming support Tuesday to raising the city’s sales tax by half a percentage point. Supporters of Measure J, which hikes the sales tax from 8 to 8.5 percent, said it would help the city recoup the loss of state redevelopment funds and protect services like pothole repairs and police. The measure was approved by 66.5 percent of voters, while 33.5 percent were opposed. It required a majority vote.
Healdsburg is joining a growing number of cities looking for a sales tax increase to help salvage their teetering budgets. City Council members on Tuesday agreed to proceed with a November ballot measure that would increase the current 8 percent sales tax by an additional half-percent. If approved, it would generate an estimated $1 million per year in new revenue.
The Sebastopol City Council broached the subject of seeking a new half-cent sales tax Tuesday, at the same time it gave tentative approval to a $5 million budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year. ‘Nobody wants to jump at a tax, but inevitably we will have to look at that,’ said Mayor Guy Wilson.
It might not seem apparent while strolling Sonoma’s plaza or cruising its leafy side streets that the city of 10,000 is facing a fiscal emergency. But city leaders assert that is the case, hence their rush to put a sales tax measure on the June 5 ballot. If enacted, it would represent the first tax increase in the city in 20 years.
Rohnert Park officials are gingerly exploring the idea of asking voters to extend a temporary sales tax that has been critical to restoring the city’s finances. Rohnert Park residents approved Measure E — a five-year, half-cent tax — in 2010. It took full effect this year and is projected to bring in $2.4 million. It has helped draw down the city’s deficit to $330,000 from $2 million last year.
A new city poll shows that Healdsburg voters likely would support a half-cent sales tax to help maintain city services. Sixty-seven percent of those responding leaned toward or said they would probably or definitely approve the sales tax increase, on the condition that the tax expired after five to 10 years.
Healdsburg residents could be asked to tax themselves a little more, depending on the results of a community poll. Council members are trying to decide whether to ask voters to raise the sales tax or the bed tax charged to hotel guests. “I’m not crazy about raising taxes in this climate. But we have to do something about our budget. It’s not sustainable,” Vice-Mayor Gary Plass said.
A hike in sales tax could be in the future for Healdsburg residents, depending on the results of a community poll. The city has put out a request for proposals from consultants to design a poll to gauge sentiment for a sales tax increase. The poll could also measure public support for redistributing hotel bed tax revenues, most of which now go to park and recreation programs.
Shoppers who plan to buy big-ticket items like cars or boats this week may want to wait until Friday, when state sales taxes will fall by 1 percent and vehicle license fees will drop statewide. The expiration of the temporary taxes will cost the state about $5.8 billion a year.