Sonoma's finances healthy, but more money may be needed

Sonoma's city finances are healthy compared to many other California cities, but uncertainty over state funding could lead to residents being asked to approve new or higher taxes to generate more revenue.

That was the message of a City Council study session held Wednesday night to provide an overview of the city's financial picture.

Sonoma ended the fiscal year in July with general-fund revenues exceeding expenditures by about $84,000. The city also has reserves of about $4 million.

"We're really pleased to bring that information to you and present that to you tonight," Assistant City Manager Carol Giovanatto told council members.

Nevertheless, the council discussed different ways to raise revenue, centering on the merits of asking residents to approve a hike in sales or bed taxes.</CW>

Mayor Laurie Gallian, who proposed the study session, said afterward that her intent was to "lay the groundwork for what happens if redevelopment falls through."

As part of the state budget passed in June, the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown dissolved redevelopment agencies that have been around for decades unless cities pay hefty fees to retain the programs.

Sonoma city leaders agreed to that requirement prior to Wednesday. But a legal challenge to Brown's actions is causing uncertainty about the availability of redevelopment funds in the future.

"There is a need for more revenue, notwithstanding our performance last year," Councilman Steve Barbose said.

But Councilwoman Joanne Sanders questioned that need given the city's relative financial health.

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