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.
During meetings in June, council members appeared to favor a half-cent general purpose tax with a sunset after 8 years. That would provide about $5 million annually. Proceeds would go into the general fund, the budget that pays for most city services, salaries and benefits.
It would give the council broad discretion over how to spend it, with little details about which programs or services would benefit. It requires a simple majority for passage.
A special-purpose tax would require that specific recipients be identified to voters and the money be spent only on those services. A special tax requires two-thirds voter approval.
Some council members have been leery of placing a special tax measure before voters because of that higher hurdle. Yet some residents have expressed misgivings about handing the council $5 million annually without guarantees on how it can be spent.
Aug. 10 is the deadline for placing a measure on the November ballot. If the council approves a sales tax measure on Monday, it would return with formal wording at the Aug. 6 council meeting.
The parcel tax measure will ask voters to approve a $52 annual tax for 15 years on single-family residences, more for other types of parcels. Senior citizens will be exempt.
The organizer expects $12 million will be generated by the tax. Proceeds would be earmarked for several specific parks projects throughout town and leveraged with bond proceeds that would pay for longer term maintenance.
The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at 11 English St.
(Contact Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 762-7297 or email@example.com.)
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