The Petaluma police union has come out against a proposed sales tax increase the City Council may place on the November ballot. The council is divided on whether to ask voters to increase the current 8 percent tax by either a quarter- or a half-percent — or whether to seek an increase at all.
The Sebastopol City Council on Tuesday voted uninanimously to put a measure on the November ballot to raise the city’s sales tax to 8.75 percent, which would be the highest in Sonoma County. The proposed half-percent increase would generate about $1 million a year — the equivalent of 20 percent of the current general fund budget — and would expire in eight years.
Like many Sonoma County cities over the past several years, Petaluma has dramatically cut spending as revenues slid and costs climbed. City workers make do with reduced supplies, older equipment and fewer coworkers. They have taken pay cuts, given up raises and seen entire departments outsourced. City Councilwoman Tiffany Renee said the time has come to stop simply cutting, cutting, cutting.
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.