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Voter-approved sales tax hikes to take effect in Sonoma County, local cities

You may have forgotten about the local sales tax hikes you voted on last fall, but they haven’t forgotten about you.

Starting Monday, purchases in unincorporated Sonoma County and Santa Rosa will be taxed at higher rates, with similar voter-approved hikes taking effect for dozens of other local governments statewide, according to the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration.

Nearly three-quarters of Sonoma County voters approved a one-eighth cent sales tax increase, dubbed Measure M. It’s expected to raise $115 million for regional and local parks over 10 years and bring sales tax in unincorporated areas up to 8.25 percent.

Cotati will continue to have the highest sales tax rate anywhere in the county, rising to 9.25 percent with the passage of the county parks tax.

Voters in Santa Rosa approved a general quarter-cent sales tax hike city officials estimate could raise $9 million in local revenue to help stave off layoffs and support public safety, public works, administrative staff and economic development. That increase, called Measure O, passed with a little over 60 percent of the vote. Santa Rosa’s new sales tax rate, 9 percent, is tied with Sebastopol for second-highest in the county.

Healdsburg, Rohnert Park and Sonoma sales tax rates all will rise slightly to 8.75 percent, according to state tax data. Other incorporated areas in the county, including Petaluma, Cloverdale, and Windsor, have their sales tax set at the county’s base rate, 8.25 percent.

Cotati’s leading rate would be the maximum California allows were it not for exemptions that are approved by the state Legislature. State Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, last year sponsored similar legislation affecting Sonoma County. The new law, Senate Bill 152, which took effect Jan. 1, allows the county and cities within it to exceed the state cap and raise their sales tax rate to 10.25 percent. That loophole would vanish in 2026 if no jurisdiction approves such an increase.

The lowest sales tax rate in California as of Monday is 7.25 percent in more than 400 municipalities, and the highest is 10.50 percent in Sante Fe Springs near Los Angeles, according to the state tax department.

The state also will start collecting taxes on many online sales Monday.

The state tax department said in December it would start requiring out-of-state retailers with in-state sales over $100,000 or with 200 or more individual transactions with delivery in a year to remit use taxes as of Monday, a move intended to level the playing field between brick-and-mortar sellers and retailers with no physical local presence.

You can reach Staff Writer Will Schmitt at 707-521-5207 or will.schmitt@pressdemocrat.com.

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