First, fix Measure O
EDITOR: The Santa Rosa City Council today will consider whether to ask voters to extend the city's utility tax to mobile phones ("Council considers tax on cellphones," Feb. 27). The council should fix one of the problems causing the need for more revenue before asking the voters for more.
Measure O established a quarter-cent sales tax to increase funding for police, fire and gang prevention. It also established baseline funding for these safety services tied to the Consumer Price Index. During the recent downturn, city revenues decreased, but the CPI kept going up. This caused baseline funding for safety services to increase by more than the city could afford.
Last year, the baseline increased by $2.2 million, but the council enacted a $1.1 million increase, which required six votes on the seven-member council. Even so, these services are consuming a continually increasing fraction of the general fund. We cannot afford this continuing diversion of funds from maintaining our parks and streets.
The council needs to ask the voters for a new baseline that increases by no more than the increase in general fund revenue. And then, if the council chooses, it can always provide more funding for these safety services than required by the new baseline.