Tax measures in votersí hands
CRPUSD bond measure needs 55 percent to pass; Cotati tax hike needs simple majority
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By Dave Williams  May 30, 2014 12:00 am

How residents vote on two tax measures on the June 3 (Tuesday) ballot will determine the City of Cotati’s future and that of the Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified School District.

Measures B and G have become hot-button topics in recent weeks because both measures will take more money from the pockets of local citizens, who’ll ultimately decide if they are necessary and worth it.

Measures B is an $80 million bond measure geared to fund physical improvements on the local schools and new projects. Some of the projects include a new gymnasium at Rancho Cotate High School, technology infrastructure upgrades and modernization throughout the district, which serves nearly 5,900 students.

Should it be approved by voters within the boundaries of the Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified School District, Measure B, according to the fact sheet on the district’s website, will cost each homeowner no more than $49 per $100,000 in assessed (not market) value. The bond measure, according to website, will generate $80 million for the district “to repair and update classrooms and school facilities, and provide the instructional technology critical to a modern education.”

Voters in June 2012 approved Measure D, an initiative that imposed a parcel tax amounting to $89 per year on those living within school district boundaries. It expires in 2017 and is expected to generate $5.3 million for local schools. The difference between the parcel tax and the bond measure is that monies from the parcel tax go for operational costs within a school district and cannot be used to make physical improvements at the schools.

Measure D needed 66.7 percent of the vote for passage and won with 66.9 percent (6,929 votes for, 3,430 against). The difference was 20 votes. In order for Measure B to be approved, it must get 55 percent of the vote.

Measure G calls for a half-cent sales tax increase in Cotati, bringing the city’s rate to 9.25 percent from its current level of 8.75 percent. If approved, Measure G will sunset after nine years. The Cotati City Council set the stage for placing Measure G on the ballot on Feb. 14 when it declared the city was in a fiscal emergency. Two weeks later, the council voted to place this issue before the voters.

Measure G, like all big issues that arise in Cotati, has very vocal and passionate supporters and opposition alike. Both sides have passed around flyers staking out their positions, and both sides has accused the other of using underhanded measures in an attempt to sway public opinion.

Those who support Measure G do so because they say they want the city to remain independent, to maintain the Cotati Police Dept. and to have the ability to provide services such as keeping the streets clean and maintaining city parks.

Those opposed feel the city could trim some fat off the city’s budget. They feel Measure A, a half-cent sales tax increase approved in 2010 which expires next year, should have been the last time the city came asking the citizens for more money. To them, the city manager’s office is a good place to start tightening the belt.

One of the opposition flyers, paid for by Cotati Jewelers owner Patricia Minnis, states how Cotati’s general fund, from 2009-2012, increased by $550,000 and that revenues from property taxes increased from $488,000 per year to $619,000 per year and that sales tax revenues increased from $1.7 million annually to $2.6 per year.

Also, Minnis’ flyer points out how since the approval of Measure A, City Manager Dianne Thompson’s staff budget more than doubled from $259,000 to $536,000.

When presented with these numbers, Thompson addressed them point by point, beginning with the general fund increase.

“General fund revenues have increased by 22 percent from Fiscal Year 2008-09 to Fiscal Year 2011-12 as a result of Measure A, the ½ cent sales tax passed by the voters in 2010,” she said. “Without Measure A, General Fund revenues actually decreased by 2 percent.”

Thompson said this information could be found on Page 15 of the 2008/09 City’s Audited Financial Statement and page 14 of the 2011/12 City’s Audited Financial Statement.

She also acknowledged the increase in property tax from $488,000 per year to $619,000. She attributed the boost to the city receiving a one-time percentage from redevelopment funds the state took away when Gov. Jerry Brown in 2011 eliminated all redevelopment agencies in the state. That redevelopment money was used by the state to help close a $26 billion budget deficit. She said that information is available on Page15 of the city’s 2008-09 Audited Financial Statement and page 14 of the 2011-12 City’s Audited Financial Statement.

When addressing her office’s budget increase nearly doubling, Thompson said her budget actually decreased 7 percent from Fiscal Year 2008-09 to 2011-12 – $216,574 in 2008/09 to $201,039 (page 35 of the 2008/09 City’s Audited Financial Statement and page 42 of the 2011/12 City’s Audited Financial Statement).

“Following the dissolution of redevelopment, the City Manager/Clerk budget in the General Fund increased to make up for the loss of redevelopment funding and the shifting of some positions from one department to another,” Thompson said. “Bottom line: the General Fund had to absorb the redevelopment loss, a $600,000 annual hit to the General Fund. The City anticipates a 40 percent drop in General Fund revenue as Measure A sunsets due to loss of Measure A funding, redevelopment loss and increased costs.”

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