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.
Petaluma City Council members on Monday will discuss asking residents to increase two local taxes — the citywide sales tax and a tax on those visiting Petaluma in local hotels. Faced with a continuing budget shrinkage, the seven-member council could vote to put either or both tax hikes on the November ballot. The discussion follows several tax increases that Sonoma County voters approved on the June ballot and a Petaluma initiative seeking a new parcel tax to pay for Petaluma parks that just qualified for the ballot.
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.
Petaluma’s budget outlook remains lean, although a new shopping center and improvements in the regional and local economy provide some hope, City Council members heard this week. In total, general fund revenues this fiscal year are down about $615,000. At the same time, $268,000 in spending was cut.
Santa Rosa City Schools took a first step Wednesday toward putting a tax measure before voters in November. While stopping short of agreeing to pay for a consultant to poll voters, the school board asked for more information on how a survey would be conducted and how to proceed with defining what the district would do with more money from a bond measure or parcel tax.
Facing $8.3 million in potential cuts in the upcoming school year, Santa Rosa City Schools officials are considering putting a tax measure before voters in November. “We are at a point of almost desperation,” school board member Tad Wakefield said. Would you pay more to fund local schools?
Healdsburg, which a few years ago decided to pass on the idea of raising the sales tax, is once again considering that possibility to help balance its budget. City Council members this week tentatively approved spending $25,000 for a survey to gauge community sentiment for raising the sales tax and possibly the “bed tax” on hotels and bed and breakfast inns.
To tax or not to tax is, once again, the key question to balancing California’s chronically deficit-ridden budget — and possibly the political future of state lawmakers facing an election next year. Republicans, who hold four of the votes needed to extend three taxes set to expire July 1, appear dug in against anything that resembles a tax increase. How will it play with voters?