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Sebastopol considers 7 percent boost in spending

Buoyed by a rebounding economy and a new voter-approved sales tax, Sebastopol's City Council will consider approval Tuesday night of an $11.7 million budget, up 7 percent from the current city spending plan.

The proposed budget includes hiring two additional employees, spending more than $500,000 on street capital improvements, $250,000 on parks capital improvements and $120,000 on new bicycle lanes, with both the parks work and bike lanes partially funded by grants.

In addition, the budget commits $850,000 to restore a general fund reserve that was depleted in 2009 and 2010, said Karen Cano, administrative services director.

“We're moving in the right direction,” Mayor Michael Kyes said, calling the fiscal year that starts Monday a “very positive year.”

Kyes said he expects approval of the budget at Tuesday night's special council meeting. Otherwise, the council will extend the current budget into the new fiscal year and address the proposed budget again on July 2.

Sebastopol's economy “looks significantly better than it has in the past,” according to city budget documents that project a nearly 12 percent increase in general fund sales taxes to $1.2 million.

The city's biggest financial lift comes from nearly $1.1 million in revenues from Measure Y, a half-cent special sales tax enacted by city voters in November.

A quarter-cent sales tax approved in 2004 adds $548,300 to city coffers and a utility users tax authorized in 2008 yields $330,000, giving the city nearly $2 million in voter-sanctioned tax revenue.

The Barlow, a 215,000-square-foot retail development on Highway 12 at Morris Street, is expected to generate more than $100,000 in sales and property taxes in the new fiscal year.

The five new employees in the budget consist of three replacements: a police officer, Engineering Department administrative assistant and a Public Works maintenance worker/water treatment operator, along with two new Public Works landscape maintenance workers.

The new officer will return the Police Department to 14 sworn officers in the wake of a retirement in April.

Kyes said 14 officers is “the minimum comfort level,” enabling the department to have at least two officers on patrol at all times.

Adding the two Public Works landscape workers will help “spruce up” city parks, the mayor said.

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or guy.kovner@pressdemocrat.com.

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