Healdsburg council schedules sales tax hike for November ballot

Healdsburg is joining a growing number of cities looking for a sales tax increase to help salvage their teetering budgets.

City Council members on Tuesday agreed to proceed with a November ballot measure that would increase the current 8 percent sales tax by an additional half-percent.

If approved, it would generate an estimated $1 million per year in new revenue.

"We can't balance the budget on employee cuts and salary cuts alone and with what the State of California is taking from us," Mayor Gary Plass said.

Plass noted that a sales tax hike seems more tolerable than another route the city had been exploring — charging drivers to park downtown.

"Judging from the conversations I've had on parking meters versus a sales tax measure, there's overall a very positive response to a half-cent sales tax measure," he said.

A consultant's poll of sample voters in February also showed enough likely support to win passage for the increased sales tax.

The council was recently informed the city's projected deficit has grown from $984,000 for the current budget year to $1.3 million, as a result of the loss of redevelopment funds. Next year's general fund deficit is calculated at $812,000.

"It's not with great pleasure that any of us look at putting this on the ballot," said Councilman Jim Wood.

Critics have previously said they are against a sales tax measure, arguing the city needs to do more to address rising employee pension and benefit costs.

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