In a public presentation that was intended to avoid advocacy, Healdsburg officials on Tuesday said the proposed half-cent sales tax hike on next week's election ballot will help avoid deep cuts to core services.
City Manager Marjie Pettus said Measure V, which would raise an estimated $1 million annually for 10 years, "will help us maintain services and put programs and services that were previously cut back into the budget."
Pettus told the audience of about two dozen people at City Hall that although the ballot measure is sponsored by the City Council, the city cannot advocate a position one way or another.
The intent, she said, is to ensure public money isn't spent pushing a point of view.
But Tim Meinken, the only City Council candidate opposed to the sales tax increase, said the city manager's 15-minute PowerPoint presentation was far from fair, nonpartisan, or nonpolitical.
"It's a sales promotion if I've ever seen one," he told The Press Democrat. "There's not one negative point in the entire presentation. And there are many, many positive points."
Meinken said the city should have analyzed the potential deterrent that raising the sales tax to 8.5 percent from 8 percent could have on businesses, particularly the city's car and truck dealers.
Nor did the city present any data on how the sales tax could impact retirees and low-income residents, he said.
But officials from the Chamber of Commerce, which has endorsed Measure V, had an opposing point of view.
"I don't think people pay attention to the sales tax. If they did, they wouldn't buy anything," Carla Howell, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, said after the meeting. And she said the sales tax that people pay on a vehicle is determined by where they live, not where they buy it.
Overall, Howell described Measure V as "business friendly" because "you can't do business in a town that doesn't have infrastructure and police protection."