NBLC strongly supports Measure A, “Sonoma County 2015 Transactions and Use Tax Ordinance,” on the ballot for the June 2, 2016, election. The measure calls for a five-year, quarter-cent sales tax increase to be spent on “general governmental purposes such as public safety, local roads and pothole repair, senior, student and veterans transit and other essential services …” The measure would raise about $20 million in its first year for the county and its nine cities, with revenue estimated to grow by 3 percent annually and would include annual audits.
This support comes with several caveats. It has been a long standing policy of NBLC’s board to not support General Taxes, because they are not binding on the jurisdictions receiving the money. But in light of the dismal state of Sonoma County’s roads, NBLC is making an exception in this case, as it appears there is no other source of funding to do these critical road improvements and this tax cannot be passed by more than a simple majority. The fact that the Measure is only for five (5) years is also appealing.
NBLC members intend to closely monitor the Board of Supervisors and the Cities to ensure that the funding raised by this tax measure is spent on road improvements and transit as outlined in the measure, and is not diverted to any other purposes. NBLC is on the record of calling for pension reform, and fears that by the County and Cities not doing enough to address this growing liability, jurisdictions will be looking for new taxes to bail them out. This cannot be the case in this ballot measure.
NBLC also urges the elected officials of Sonoma County to work together to better coordinate a response to the looming unmet funding needs. There is a need to recognize that we are approaching the upper limit of the taxpayers’ ability to pay new taxes and that there is a finite amount of tax-paying capacity, whether the sales tax cap is raised or not. Our municipalities need to work together to prioritize funding needs so that new funding can be allocated to top priorities and not to those who get on the ballot first.