Petaluma Parcel Tax for Park Funding, Measure X (November 2012)
Measure X would have created a parcel tax that ranged from $52 up to $500, depending on the parcel.
The tax was to be in effect for 15 years, and was estimated to raise $12 million over that 15-year period.
This money would have been used to fund a variety of park and recreational improvements in the City of Petaluma, including walking trails, and upgrading the community pool and the athletic fields in the city's parks. One specific example of a project that was to be funded if the measure was approved was a $6.1 million upgrade for the planned East Washington Park. This would be three all-weather fields for soccer, football, baseball and lacrosse on a 25-acre site the city already owns near the Petaluma Municipal Airport. The "historic livery stable" in Steamer Landing Park was also slated for renovation if the measure is approved.
A 2/3rds supermajority vote was needed for approval.
A group called "Petaluma Friends of Recreation" was leading the charge for this parcel tax. Carol Eber is the co-chairperson of the group. She said, "We recognize these are tough times. Still, what amounts to $1 a week doesn't seem like too much to ask for recreational facilities that will benefit the entire community."
Another supporter was Kevin McDonnell, a past president of Petaluma Youth Soccer. He said, "We've been trying to get the city to build East Washington Park for five or six years. This will help."
Mark Ferguson also supported the new tax. He is a former Petaluma Parks commissioner. He said, "[the proposed East Washington Park] was at the top of the city's priority list for 20 years ... but there was never any new money coming in to do it....waiting is not the thing to do. The longer we wait the more needs to be done."
The group hoped to raise about $100,000 for its campaign.
Dan Drummond, executive director of the Sonoma County Taxpayers Association, opposed the measure. He made these arguments against it:
- "Of immediate concern, however, is that the money to be raised is inadequate to fully fund the projects specified. There remains a $2 million shortfall even if the tax is approved. No source for the additional funding has been identified and given today's economic environment can likely be found. The prospect of incomplete, partially constructed projects is a legacy we can ill-afford."
- "The measure also fails to identify any source for operating or maintenance costs. These projects, even if fully funded and completed, would incur ongoing expenses necessary to preserve the investment. The lack of an identified source for these expenses simply ensures that these projects will soon fall into disrepair."
- "...while the monies raised will be maintained in separate accounts, the measure allows the city of Petaluma to charge these accounts for certain “administrative” expenses. Petaluma has a history of using such loopholes to divert funds intended for one purpose to the general fund where no limitations or oversight exist. With no cap placed on the city's ability to raid the account, residents cannot be assured their money will be used as intended."
- "While our annual employee pension costs in Petaluma have soared nearly threefold in a scant eight years, from $5 million in 2004 to $14 million currently, taxes previously paid for parks and recreation projects have necessarily been diverted to pay these ever-increasing costs...So what has been done to rein in unsustainable pension costs? Again, the answer is nothing. New two-year contracts just signed with our police officers and firefighters unions require absolutely no concessions from current employees. Current police officers and firefighters will continue to enjoy the same levels of compensation and benefits that have led to the current financial crisis."
The question on the ballot:
|MEASURE X: "Shall the City of Petaluma ordinance enhancing specific park and recreation projects, making trail/field safety improvements and playgrounds more accessible, repairing/replacing outdated, deteriorating facilities, and establishing new recreational opportunities by levying a fifteen-year parcel tax of $52 annually for single-family homes; with specified amounts for multi-family and other properties; exemptions for seniors and others, with resulting revenue remaining local (exempt from state use), annual audits, and oversight by an independent citizens' committee, be adopted?"|
Path to the ballot
This parcel tax question, in what is a very unusual move, qualified for the ballot via the collection of signatures on petitions. This contrasts to the situation for the overwhelming majority of local parcel tax measures, which earn a spot on the ballot because the governing board of the jurisdiction the tax will apply to votes the measure onto the ballot.
A group called Petaluma Friends of Recreation oversaw the initiative petition process. The group eventually collected and submitted approximately 5,100 signatures, versus a requirement of 3,100 signatures.
- The Press Democrat, "Petaluma parks tax gets signatures for ballot measure," June 16, 2012 (dead link)
- Press Democrat, "Too many unknowns with Petaluma tax measure," August 16, 2012 (dead link)
- Press Democrat, "Petaluma parks tax measure qualifies for November ballot," June 22, 2012 (dead link)
- Petaluma 360, "Tax proposed to fund park projects," January 5, 2012
- Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.