Petaluma City Council weighs tax increases Monday

Petaluma City Council members Monday will discuss placing two taxes on the November ballot: A parcel tax to help pay for parks and a sales tax increase to fund city services.

The parcel tax on all property owners already has qualified for the ballot. The group Petaluma Friends of Recreation gathered enough valid signatures to place the item before voters. The council will formally vote to submit it for the countywide election.

The sales tax issue is more controversial.

All but one of the seven council members has expressed willingness to ask voters if they want to tax themselves to pay for such things as road repairs, police and fire services, storm water maintenance costs and programs for the poor or elderly.

But it isn't clear whether voters will be on board. For the past three weeks, city staffers and council members have been seeking input.

The feedback has been mixed.

Councilman Mike Healy commissioned a telephone poll, which he said showed about 68 percent support for a half-cent sales tax for eight years to pay for essential city services like police, fire and streets. That support includes those who said they are "very supportive" and "somewhat supportive" of such a tax.

A poll conducted by the Argus-Courier newspaper showed the opposite. Two-thirds of the 80 respondents opposed any tax.

A committee of the local Chamber of Commerce supported a tax, but cautioned that it didn't speak for the board or the general membership.

The city received only a half-dozen letters about the issue, five of which were opposed.

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