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Since 2004, general city funding for public safety services in Santa Rosa have been supplemented by a quarter-cent sales tax, Measure O. Santa Rosa voters approved Measure O 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.
Locally controlled public safety funding from Measure O 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 Measure O include more than 25 firefighters, paramedics and police officers. Additionally, Measure O funds 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.
Measure O revenues are allocated approximately 40% for fire services, 40% for police services and 20% for violence prevention programs. These allocations could be augmented in a potential renewal measure.
At adoption in 2004, Measure O set a baseline allocation of funds, 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. Minimum allocations and distributions could be altered in a potential renewal measure.
In 2004, voters approved Measure O 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.
Without Measure O 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.
The City is currently considering options for placing a measure on the ballot later this year to renew the existing local 1/4 cent sales tax that provides dedicated public safety and violence prevention funding.
If approved by voters, renewed locally controlled public safety funding could be used to:
A renewal measure would likely require the same strict fiscal accountability provisions as required by the current Measure O, including:
No. The funds could not be taken away by the State or used for other purposes, ensuring that our tax dollars are used locally.
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.
The existing local sales tax that provides dedicated public safety funding is a quarter cent, adding 25 cents to a $100 purchase.
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.
The City has passed measures to provide and maintain general city funding in recent years; however, only Measure O provides dedicated funding to support public safety services specifically.
No, there is no evidence that increasing sales tax rates discourages patrons from supporting local businesses. An extra 25 or 50 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.
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.
Yes, this is being discussed, but is uncertain. In the meantime, Measure O is set to expire in 2025 and the City must take action before losing $10 million annually in public safety funding.