Petaluma leaders to explore possible tax measure

Maybe the third time will be the charm for Petaluma residents.

In the past 10 years, voters have defeated two proposed tax increases, but city leaders are considering possibly trying a third measure, likely for the November 2014 ballot.

At Monday's council meeting, the issue will be discussed, including whether to spend as much as $290,000 for polling, a campaign and election costs.

The details are open — what kind of tax, how much, for what purpose and for how long.

For now, City Manager John Brown said the discussion should be limited to whether the council should survey residents to determine their tolerance for any tax, and if so, what kind of measure might stand the greatest chance of approval.

In 2003, voters rejected Measure D, a proposed utility tax of 5 percent for 20 years to fund road improvements. Last year, Measure X, a 15-year parks and recreation parcel tax, also failed.

Both measures were special taxes, which require a two-thirds majority to succeed.

In 2010 and 2012, the council decided against seeking a hotel-tax increase, and talk of a sales-tax increase fizzled last year after informal polling showed little public support.

Councilwoman Kathy Miller, who was deeply involved in the Measure X effort, said "taking the pulse" of the community is critical before embarking on a potential tax hike.

"Some people favor a special tax and some favor a general tax," she said. "It's nice to have flexibility to use the money for whatever you need to use it for. But people don't want to see it go to pensions. They'd rather see it go to roads or police or whatever."

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