Petaluma weighs sales, hotel tax hikes

Like many Sonoma County cities over the past several years, Petaluma has dramatically cut spending as revenues slid and costs climbed.

City workers make do with reduced supplies, older equipment and fewer coworkers. They have taken pay cuts, given up raises and seen entire departments outsourced.

Residents have watched the city's pothole-riddled roads further deteriorate, broken street lights go unrepaired, parks grow weedy, maintenance put off. Specialized units in the police department, like DARE and school resource officers, have been pulled back to patrol functions.

City Councilwoman Tiffany Renee said the time has come to stop simply cutting, cutting, cutting.

"It's a matter of seeing if people want to continue with the status quo of budget cuts and rundown infrastructure or if we want to bootstrap ourselves up and take care of ourselves," she said.

Renee supports asking Petaluma voters to approve a sales-tax measure on the November ballot.

Similarly, Councilwoman Teresa Barrett supports increasing the city's transient-occupancy tax.

Either tax could have a difficult time passing, some political observers say, given the belt-tightening everyday citizens also have had to endure and at least two statewide tax hikes expected to be on the ballot.

The council will discuss the tax issues at a special meeting June 25 at City Hall. The deadline is Aug. 10 to put an item on the November ballot.

"We've tried very hard to insulate the community from the cuts in services and to do our best to make ends meet," Renee said. "We're not able to insulate the community as much anymore. We have to go to the community and let them know what's on the horizon in terms of the impact."

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