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Ballot Measure V

Measure V:  City of Sonoma, Transactions and Use (Sales) Tax Extension and Appropriations Limit Increase

The City Council approved placing this measure on the November 2020 ballot.

Text of Measure V:
To continue funding general city services, including: emergency preparedness, infrastructure, street maintenance, parks, open space, community services, ambulance services, public safety, and supporting Sonoma’s quality of life, shall the City of Sonoma (1) extend the existing voter approved sales tax of 0.50% (estimated $2,580,000 annually) on an ongoing basis until ended by voters, with no increase to the current rate, and (2) increase the City’s annual appropriations limit by sales tax revenues for the next four years?

Ballot Documents

More Information

Image of Measure V info sheetDownload a one-page summary of Information about Measure V: Local Sales Tax Extension.

Learn more about the City's finances on the City Budget and Financial Documents pages.

FAQs about Measure V

For 8 years, Sonoma has had a voter-approved half-cent (0.50%) local sales tax that helps fund City services.  This local sales tax was approved by Sonoma voters in 2012, and again in 2016.  Measure V would extend this local tax (officially called a “transactions and use tax”) beyond its current expiration date in 2022, with no change in the rate.

If Measure V is passed, this tax would continue to be applied to sales by retailers within the City of Sonoma and on the storage, use, or consumption in the City of tangible personal property by any retailer (for example, online purchases by City residents). State law provides exemptions that include prescription medication, groceries for home consumption, and other items.

Measure V was placed on the November 3, 2020 ballot by a unanimous vote of the Sonoma City Council to help maintain the City’s service levels and ensure financial stability and sustainability.

Voters approved this local sales tax in 2012 to offset the loss of redevelopment funding and protect essential City services.  Measure V extends this funding source, which currently provides about 13% of the total revenue for general city services such as public safety and street maintenance. All revenue from this tax remains local to benefit the Sonoma community.

The City of Sonoma is using financial reserves to partially offset the current and severe economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and maintain services to the extent possible, but it has also significantly reduced its budget this year.  This has resulted in reductions to police services (elimination of three positions), neighborhood park maintenance, recreation and community services programs, and funding for capital improvement projects, among other reductions (more information can be found on the City budget page). Without sustainable funding sources such as Measure V, it will be necessary to make further cuts to City services on an ongoing basis.

 

 

Sonoma’s local half-cent sales tax generates approximately $2.5 million annually (in the current fiscal year, projections were lowered to $2.1 million due to the pandemic’s impact on the economy). This makes it one of the major sources for the City’s General Fund, bringing in about 13% of total revenue.

 

All of the revenue from the local sales tax is spent locally for the benefit of the Sonoma community.  Measure V revenues go into the City’s General Fund, which provides basic city services including 911 emergency response, fire and ambulance services, police services, emergency preparedness, street and parks maintenance, planning and building services, and service contracts with local nonprofits serving youth, seniors, and the homeless, among other priorities set by the City Council.

The largest share of the General Fund budget pays for fire, ambulance, and police services (over half the total budget), followed by maintenance of local streets and parks (including the Plaza).  As a result of the City’s ongoing investment in its streets, the City of Sonoma currently has the second highest street condition rating in Sonoma County. Cities that practice preventive maintenance have lower long-term pavement costs and safeguard their investment in local streets and roads.

Learn more at sonomacity.org/city-budget.

 

The City’s current local sales tax will expire in September 2022.  By law, the City Council can only place a tax measure on the ballot when Council Members are running for election (which is every two years) without declaring a fiscal emergency.  If the sales tax renewal was delayed until November 2022, the City would lose several months of sales tax revenue, as well as the ability to financially plan for service levels to the community.  The lack of certainty regarding this revenue (13% of the General Fund) would likely require additional service level reductions earlier than 2022.

Most cities in Sonoma County have a local sales tax to support their general city services.  The cities of Cotati and Sebastopol have a full cent local sales tax, and the cities of Santa Rosa, Healdsburg, Rohnert Park, and Sonoma have a half-cent local sales tax.  The City of Petaluma has a full cent sales tax on the November ballot, and the cities of Santa Rosa, Cotati, Healdsburg and Sonoma have measures on the ballot to extend their local sales taxes at the current rate.

All Measure V funds would remain local and be controlled by the City Council.  The primary reason this local sales tax was originally brought to Sonoma voters in 2012 was the State takeaway of millions of dollars in local redevelopment revenue.  By law, locally approved sales taxes cannot be taken away by the State.

In recent years, the City of Sonoma has taken many steps to increase financial transparency and accountability. These include multi-year financial forecasting and capital planning, improved cost-recovery for fee-based services, an updated financial reserves policy, and monthly reporting to the City Council on revenues, expenditures, and investment transactions.

A statewide assessment of the fiscal health of cities by the California State Auditor put the City of Sonoma in the highest rated category for ability to meet financial challenges.  The Auditor’s assessment looked at five criteria (liquidity, debt burden, retirement obligations, revenue trends, and financial reserves) to assess level of risk for financial challenges. Sonoma was assessed at “Low Risk”.

 

Measure V would extend the existing local sales tax at the current rate on an ongoing basis until repealed by the voters. This tax could be repealed by voters in the future if placed on the ballot by the City Council or by a citizen initiative.

 

In California cities, under what is known as the “Gann Limit”, a maximum spending amount is established for tax-funded services and adjusted each year. Each year, the City Council adopts a resolution establishing the appropriations limit for the City of Sonoma. This ballot language allows the City to adjust this spending limit in line with the revenues that would be received if Measure V is passed. The appropriations limit may be changed by the voters of the City for a period of not more than four years.

Measure V requires approval by a simple majority of voters in order to pass.

More information about Measure V, including the ballot materials as well as links to City budget information, can be found on the City’s website at sonomacity.org/ballot-measure-v.  General information about the November 3 election can be found at sonomacity.org/elections.  If you are a member of a community organization that would like to receive a presentation on Measure V (which can be done remotely), please contact the City at cityhall@sonomacity.org or 933-2210.

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