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Healdsburg sales tax hike on November ballot

Healdsburg voters will have two extra issues to ponder when they fill out their ballots in November, including whether to increase the sales tax by half a percentage point.

City Council members on Monday night unanimously voted to put the proposed sales tax increase on the Nov. 6 ballot, saying it is necessary to preserve vital, core services.

“We're in a very difficult situation. We won't cut our way out,” Councilman Tom Chambers said.

“We badly need a resource to help us balance our budget in the future,” Councilman Jim Wood said.

A separate ballot measure approved Monday by the council involves extending the life of the city's Urban Growth Boundary, set to expire at the end of 2016, to Dec. 31, 2030.

Voters adopted the boundary in 1996, which essentially prohibits development outside of the city's urban service area.

All other cities in the county have similar voter-adopted boundaries, which are intended to prevent urban sprawl and avoid leapfrog development as well as to protect agriculture and open space.

If the urban growth limit is extended to 2030, it will expire at the same time as the city's general plan, the document that guides development.

It was the sales tax measure that engendered the most discussion Monday among council members, who said Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed sales tax increase on the ballot will do little for cities, including Healdsburg.

“I'm not a big tax guy. I don't think any of us are big tax people,” Mayor Gary Plass said of his aversion to imposing new taxes. “The governor's tax won't do any of us any good.”

“It's sad that it's come to this,” he said. “The state for all intents and purposes has abandoned us. They are taking, not giving.”

If the increase is approved, the sales tax in Healdsburg would go from the current 8 percent to 8.5 percent. The extra half a percentage point would automatically expire in 10 years.

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