Healdsburg City Council members have the results of a poll that shows support for a half-percentage point sales tax hike, but before they put a measure on the November ballot, they'd like to hear more from the community.
A special City Council meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m Monday April 30th. to discuss the results of the voter poll and consider a ballot proposal.
"I think we will make a decision that night," Mayor Gary Plass said Monday.
"I think we have some pretty good information from the consultant," he said. "I'm hoping we get a good turnout at the meeting and a better handle on the temperature of the community as to a tax ballot initiative."
The $25,000, city commissioned poll taken in February found that a slim majority of voters showed initial, tentative support for a sales tax hike. But support grew when voters were provided more information — both pro and con — on the merits of a ballot measure. About 67 percent were inclined to vote in favor, or said they would probably or definitely approve of the sales tax increase.
"I think we're going to use the meeting on Monday to further dive into the poll results," said Vice—mayor Susan Jones, who added that if the council decides to back a sales tax hike, it needs to decide where the revenue will be directed.
The poll showed voters prefer a sales tax increase that funds streets and public safety, not a measure dedicated solely to one purpose or the other.
Healdsburg is projected to have a $1 million deficit in its current $7 million general fund, almost all of which goes to pay for police and fire services.
"There comes a point where you can't cut anymore. We have to bring in more money," Jones said.
The tax hike would generate about $1 million annually.
Plass said a general tax would require a simple majority to pass. It would raise Healdsburg's current 8 percent rate to 8.5 percent, on par with Santa Rosa, Cotati and Rohnert Park.
Poll respondents were open to either a 5-year or 10-year expiration clause on the potential sales tax hike.
Consultant David Metz said the poll found that voters are "highly pleased" with conditions in Healdsburg and approve of city government's performance.
"Street maintenance is one area of notable dissatisfaction," he noted.
About 56 percent of respondents said the city does a fair, or poor job maintaining streets and roadways.
State budget cuts that reduce money for local city services was the subject of strong concern, with 57 percent polled saying it is an extremely serious, or very serious problem.
Voters are comfortable with some budget cuts, such as reducing hours at City Hall, reducing funding for community gardens or selling city property.
But majorities do not find it acceptable to contract for public safety programs or eliminate recreation programs.
The poll results and a power point presentation highlighting the findings are available at www.ci.healdsburg.ca.us.
You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or firstname.lastname@example.org.