Santa Rosa to Discuss Progress on Charter Amendments, Tax Renewals on Ballot Tuesday

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The Santa Rosa City Council will discuss several items on Tuesday that could feature on the November ballot, including a move to increase council compensation and the renewal of a public safety tax.

In 2004, voters approved the Public Safety and Violence Prevention Funding Measure, known as Measure O, to provide a dedicated stream of funding for police, fire and prevention programs in Santa Rosa.

But the quarter-cent sales tax, which generates about $10 million a year, is set to expire in March 2025.

City administrators are recommending extending the tax for 20 years and leaving allocations to police, fire and violence prevention programs unchanged. The police and fire services each receive 40% of the funding and the remaining 20% ​​is allocated to prevention, although some council members and residents have indicated they would like to change the amount that goes to each bucket.

The council will also discuss three proposed amendments to the city’s charter ― effectively its constitution ― to increase council compensation, ratify district-level elections and update and modernize the language of the document.

Elected officials at a June 21 meeting indicated their support for sending the three measures to the ballot and asked staff to draft a ballot paper and resolution to call the election, but council members did not could not agree on specifics related to the compensation issue, including how much of the bonus the board members should receive.

Some council members preferred to move forward with a committee’s recommendation to tie council compensation to the area’s median income for a three-person household, which would provide a more than six-fold increase, while two council members wanted council members to be paid more.

Proposed changes to the charter

A committee of 21 Santa Rosa residents spent six months studying updates to the city’s charter, which must be approved by voters. Of the dozen or so topics considered by the committee, they ultimately recommended that the board send three measures to the November ballot:

  • Increase board compensation.
  • Updating of the charter to bring it into line with the new municipal elections in the city. If that fails, it could be up to a judge to decide the future of the city’s method of election.
  • Several small changes to update charter language and revisions to clarify some city procedures, such as allowing the city manager to develop a two-year budget or more frequent charter changes. This would appear as an overall question on the ballot.

At the June 21 meeting, council members supported sending all three to the polls. But while elected officials believe higher pay could attract more diverse and qualified candidates for public office and would more fairly reflect the hours put in at work, they were split on how best to get more meaningful pay.

Santa Rosa council members currently receive a monthly stipend of $800, and the mayor receives $1,200 per month ― $9,600 and $14,400 per year, respectively ― plus health insurance and other benefits assessed up to $33,700 per year.

Under the committee’s proposal, the salary would be tied to the area’s median income, a figure set by federal housing officials and updated annually. The mayor would receive 100% of the median income of a three-person household, or $101,500, and council members would receive two-thirds of that amount, or $66,990.

Mayor Chris Rogers, Vice Mayor Eddie Alvarez and Council Member Tom Schwedhelm preferred to go ahead with the committee’s suggestion.

But council members Victoria Fleming and Natalie Rogers told staff they want council members and the mayor to receive the same salary equal to 100% of the region’s median income. While two-thirds of the region’s median income is a considerable increase, it’s still not enough to support a family in Sonoma County with the rising cost of living, they said.

Rogers said she worked three jobs to support her family, but it wasn’t sustainable in the long term.

‘I can only hold this for so long before something has to give,’ she told her colleagues, adding that if she doesn’t run for office she fears the low salary will be an obstacle. to attract diverse people.

The pay difference also creates a disparity between the six council members and the mayor and Fleming feared it could lead to people seeking the job for the wrong reason. The committee recommended a higher salary for the mayor because they considered it a full-time job.

“The mayor does extra work, but the mayor is a person among equals,” Fleming said. “He should be someone who is well aware that he is a leader among his peers and to that end I think having a salary disparity between mayor and council members of $30,000 to $40,000 $ really makes the position of mayor not only more powerful but truly separate.

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