Public Safety and Violence Prevention Funding Measure
In 2004, Santa Rosa voters approved a measure to provide dedicated funding for public safety and for violence prevention programs in Santa Rosa. For the past 17 years these funds have been used to support fire protection, paramedics, rapid 9-1-1 emergency response, disaster preparedness, crime prevention, youth programs and police services.
Each year, an independent citizens’ oversight committee has reviewed the use of these funds and confirmed funds were spent appropriately for voter-approved public safety services. The most recent report of the oversight committee is available here. Unless renewed by voters, approximately $10 million in annual public safety funding will soon expire, which will require deep cuts to public safety services, youth programs and violence prevention initiatives in Santa Rosa.
Renewing Local Public Safety Funding
On July 26, the City Council unanimously placed a measure on the November 8, 2022, ballot to renew the existing local 1/4 cent sales tax that provides dedicated public safety and violence prevention funding. Continuing this funding for public safety through a local sales tax ensures that out-of-town visitors and shoppers also contribute to these local safety measures. Essential purchases like groceries and medicine are exempt from this sales tax to ensure it is not a burden to those on fixed or limited incomes.
The renewal measure will require the same strict fiscal accountability provisions as required by the current measure, including:
- An independent citizens’ oversight committee, mandatory financial audits, and annual reports to the community
- All money raised by the measure would be controlled locally and restricted to specific public safety and violence prevention programs
- By law, the money could not be taken away by Sacramento or diverted to other purposes
Voter-Approved Funds at Work for the Community
Currently over twenty-five firefighter, paramedic and police personnel positions are funded by this expiring public safety sales tax. Additionally, Measure O has funded more than 400,000 hours each year of youth and family mental health, public health, gang prevention and social services. Without this local funding these services for youth and families must be cut. Neighborhood fire stations will likely close, 9-1-1 emergency response times for fires, emergencies, accidents and violent crimes will also be slower.
Santa Rosa Police Department (SRPD) continues to handle an increasing number of calls each year. In 2020, SRPD received 203,455 calls for service, including 72,666 9-1-1 calls. Since its inception, local sales tax funding has been a critical part of the Police Department’s overall funding. These funds have allowed the SRPD to provide increased patrol services, respond to local emergencies and conduct enhanced traffic enforcement. Additionally, these funds have contributed to an increased presence in the downtown area with a substation in the transit mall.
The Santa Rosa Fire Department currently has 10.25 positions paid for via Measure O. This equates to the personnel required to staff a fire station full time. Measure O also pays for 15 of the Fire Department Paramedic positions, allowing five of the twelve on-duty fire apparatus to be Advanced Life Support staffed and equipped. Santa Rosa Fire Department has used local sales tax funds to construct and relocate fire stations. Since 2005, three new fire stations have been built with these funds, Stations 5, 10, and 11. Additional funds are reserved for the future relocation of Station 8 (Roseland) or Station 9 (Southeast). Past and proposed fire station relocations are designed to place emergency response personnel and equipment close to key population centers to keep 9-1-1 emergency response times as quick as possible. Measure O has purchased fire engines, a wildland fire engine, command vehicles, swift water rescue equipment, and communications equipment.
The expiring voter-approved sales tax also provides funding for the Santa Rosa Violence Prevention Partnership (The Partnership), which is a collaborative effort of over 50 organizations focused on a shared responsibility to strengthen youth and families and create safe and resilient neighborhoods through mobilizing and engaging parents, schools, community-based organizations, the faith community, business, government, and local law enforcement. This funding also goes to the Neighborhood Services section of the City’s Recreation Division. The Recreation Division, with this funding, provides innovative youth development programming that serves at-risk, low-income, and homeless youth and families.
The Partnership also administers the CHOICE Grant Program, which receives funding from the local public safety sales tax. Annually, the CHOICE Grant Program provides an average of $650,000 to $840,000 to local community-based organizations. From 2020 until present, nearly a million dollars has been awarded to local organizations supporting youth and families in Santa Rosa.
- How are public safety services funded in Santa Rosa?
Since 2004, general city funding for public safety services in Santa Rosa have been supplemented by a quarter-cent sales tax. Santa Rosa voters approved this measure to provide dedicated funding for public safety and youth programs and preventing gang violence. For the past 17 years these funds have been used to support fire protection, paramedics, rapid 9-1-1 emergency response, disaster preparedness, crime prevention and police services. Each year, an independent citizens’ oversight committee has reviewed the use of funds and confirmed funds were spent appropriately for voter-approved services.
- What types of public safety services has this measure supported?
Locally controlled public safety funding has been critical for helping Santa Rosa recover from devastating fires in recent years and prepare for future fire seasons and potential public safety power shutoffs. Positions currently funded by the local sales tax measure include more than 25 firefighters, paramedics and police officers. Additionally, this measure has funded over 400,000 hours each year of youth and family mental health, public health, gang prevention and social services that keep Santa Rosa citizens safe.
- How are voter-approved public safety funds allocated?
Funds are allocated approximately 40% for fire services, 40% for police services and 20% for violence prevention programs.
- Is there a minimum allocation of funds for public safety services?
At adoption in 2004, a baseline allocation of funds was set, ensuring that the budgets for police, fire and violence prevention programs do not fall below the FY 2004-05 totals, adjusted annually for inflation. In November 2016, voters approved a new baseline allocation for each service. Based on this measure, the total general fund budget is allocated at a minimum 34.3% for police, 23.7% for fire, and 0.4% for violence prevention programs.
- Does voter-approved public safety funding expire soon?
In 2004, voters approved a ¼ cent sales tax to fund public safety services with a 20-year expiration date. Unless renewed by voters, this approximately $10 million in annual public safety funding will expire in 2025, requiring deep cuts to public safety services in Santa Rosa.
- What happens if local funding expires and we lose $10 million per year for public safety and violence prevention programs?
Without voter-approved public safety funding, many of our firefighters, paramedics and law enforcement officers could be laid off and services for youth and families could be cut or limited. Due to potential cuts to violence prevention programs this could create additional costs to taxpayers. As a result, neighborhood fire stations will likely close and 9-1-1 emergency response times for fires, medical emergencies and accidents, and violent crimes will be impacted.
- What is the city doing to maintain this local public safety funding?
On July 26, the City Council unanimously placed a measure on the November 8, 2022, ballot to renew the existing local 1/4 cent sales tax that provides dedicated public safety and violence prevention funding.
- Specifically, what would the renewal measure fund?
If approved by voters, renewed locally controlled public safety funding would be used to:
- Reduce the risk of wildfires by improving wildfire prevention, preparedness, early fire alert systems, rapid response and evacuation planning
- Maintain fire protection services and prevent the closure of fire stations
- Maintain rapid 9-1-1 emergency response
- Provide resources for youth programs and violence prevention efforts along with grants to community-based organizations
- Prevent reductions in the number of on-duty firefighters, paramedics and police officers
- Provide mental health counseling, wrap around services and programs to help at-risk youth and their families
- How do we know funds from the renewal measure would be spent as promised?
The renewal measure will require the same strict fiscal accountability provisions as required by the expiring measure, including:
- An independent citizens’ oversight committee, mandatory financial audits and annual reports to the community
- All money raised by the measure would be controlled locally and restricted for public safety services only
- By law, the money could not be taken away by Sacramento or diverted to other purposes
- None of the money could be used for City administrator salaries
- Could the state take funding away from the renewal measure?
No. The funds could not be taken away by the State or used for other purposes, ensuring that our tax dollars are used locally.
- Would the renewal measure ensure that Santa Rosa’s visitors pay their fair share?
Yes. Visitors who work or shop in our community and enjoy its many benefits would also pay the sales tax, ensuring that local homeowners and renters don’t shoulder the entire burden.
- How much will the renewal measure cost?
The renewal measure will not increase taxes, but will maintain the existing rate of ¼ cent, adding 25 cents to a $100 purchase.
- Are there protections for people on fixed or limited incomes?
Yes. By law, essential purchases like groceries and prescription medicine are exempt from a sales tax so it is not a burden to those on fixed or limited incomes.
- Didn’t Santa Rosa just pass a local sales tax measure?
The City has passed measures to provide and maintain general city funding in recent years; however, only the expiring funding measure provides dedicated funding to support public safety services specifically.
- Don’t sales tax measures hurt local business?
No, there is no evidence that increasing sales tax rates discourages patrons from supporting local businesses. An extra 25 cents per $100 spent is not enough incentive for a consumer to change their buying habits or drive extra distance. Plus, essential purchases are exempt from sales tax.
- How would a sales tax affect auto dealerships in Santa Rosa?
Sales tax is paid on cars where they are registered, not where they are purchased, so a local sales tax does not impact business for local car dealers.
- When is the election?
The public safety funding renewal measure will be on the November 8, 2022 ballot. All registered voters in Santa Rosa will receive a ballot in the mail in early October. You may cast your ballot by mail in this election or in-person at designated vote centers.
- Who can vote on the renewal measure?
All registered voters in Santa Rosa are eligible to vote on the measure.
- How can I register to vote?
To register to vote or to check your voter registration status, please visit www.registertovote.ca.gov.
- How can I find out more about voting in this election?
For more information about voting in the November 8, 2022 general election, please visit www.sonomacounty.ca.gov/vote or call Sonoma County Registrar of Voters at (707) 565-6800.