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Rohnert Park voters to weigh sales tax extension

In a thus far notably quiet Rohnert Park campaign season, one would be hard pressed to tell that $3 million a year for the city budget is at stake Nov. 5.

On that day's election ballot is Measure A, a bid to indefinitely extend a half-percent city sales tax that voters approved in 2010. Officials credit the tax with helping restore Rohnert Park to fiscal stability.

If the measure passes, the tax would remain in place until the council voted unanimously to end it or voters chose to do so through another ballot measure.

No organized opposition has surfaced thus far. And with a little more than two weeks to go before polls open, supporters have just begun erecting signs and knocking on voters' doors.

The tax brings in just over $3million a year for the general fund and originally was pitched as a five-year stopgap measure to help the city climb back to solid fiscal ground.2

But Rohnert Park still faces a deficit of between $1.4 and $1.8 million. Its finances also have been hampered by the state-ordered dissolution of redevelopment agencies, which resulted in the loss of millions of dollars used for affordable housing, targeted spending to boost economic development, and infrastructure projects.

So officials are making no bones about how crucial maintaining the tax is to them.

“It's extremely important,” said Mayor Pam Stafford. “It helps keep so many things going.”

She acknowledged that asking to make permanent what was a short-term tax is hardly an ideal political position, but she characterized the measure as continuing a tax rather than adding a new one.

“I'm not big on throwing taxes out there at people; I really don't like to do that,” she said. “But working with our budget as intimately as I do, I know exactly where we get our money from and we just really need this to continue.”

The tax measure won in 2010 with the support of 55 percent of voters, raising the city's sales tax rate to 8.75 percent. It has been used to fund police and fire services, operations at the senior, community and performing arts centers, and roadwork.

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