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Sebastopol sales tax gets closer to vote
Measure would restore some city services to 'minimium level'

The Sebastopol City Council on Tuesday moved closer to putting a half-percent sales tax measure on the November ballot to restore some of the services that have been lost during the economic downturn.

"This will be maintaining services at the minimum level; it doesn't help to rebuild the parks," said Vice Mayor Michael Kyes. "We aren't going to be able to go out and splurge."

The council, with only Kathleen Shaffer objecting, directed the city staff to finalize the language for a November ballot measure and bring it back for final approval July 17.

The increase would raise about $1 million a year to boost street maintenance, update the general plan and hire a police officer for a force that is at its lowest staffing level in two decades.

Kyes also warned that it will help the city cope with anticipated cost increases, such as $125,000 in pension costs the next two years and medical insurance costs expected to rise 10 percent.

If the measure is approved by voters, Sebastopol's sales tax would go from 8.25 percent to 8.75 percent, and be the highest in Sonoma County.

Shaffer said a sales tax increase would come on the heels of hikes in the sewer and water rates that will double what homeowners will pay at the end of the next four years.

"Many people think they are being taxed, nickeled and dimed to death," Shaffer said. "This will be an economic hardship.

The city's current quarter-percent sales tax was approved by voters in 2004.

The city also is among a number that have had sales tax increases recently or are asking for them in November.

Sonoma voters on June 5 approved a half-cent sales tax increase and Healdsburg will also have a half-cent increase on the November ballot.

Santa Rosa approved a quarter-cent increase in 2004 and another in 2010, and Cotati and Rohnert Park both approved half-cent increases in 2010.

Because the Sebastopol tax would be for general purposes, it would need only a majority to pass.

You can reach Staff Writer Bob Norberg at 521-5206 or bob.norberg@pressdemocrat.com.

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