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Tuesday November 6, 2018 — California General Election
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Sonoma County
Measure M - 2/3 Approval Required

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Election Results


148,130 votes yes (72.6%)

55,852 votes no (27.4%)

100% of precincts reporting (551/551).

To improve and protect Sonoma County's regional and neighborhood parks; safeguard water supplies, streams, rivers; reduce future wildfire risk; preserve fish and wildlife habitat; conserve natural areas for future generations; support community health and expand walking, hiking, and biking trails; shall Sonoma County establish a one-eighth cent special transaction and use tax (sales tax) countywide for a ten-year period, providing approximately $11.5 million annually, with citizens' oversight and annual audits?

What is this proposal?

Details — Official information


Sonoma County ROV (Sample Ballot)


Measure M asks voters whether the County should impose a one-eighth of one per- cent special sales tax countywide for a period of ten years to fund improvements and maintenance for both Sonoma County Regional Parks and local city parks. These improvements include water quality protection projects and fire safety measures listed in the Expenditure Plan attached to the Measure. If approved, Measure M would impose a special tax that will provide approximately $11,500,000 annually. As a special tax, funds may be used only for the specific purposes set forth in the full text of the Measure published in this ballot pamphlet. The tax money will be placed in a special fund maintained in the County Treasury, and will be audited annually by an independent accountant.

The Expenditure Plan lists four categories of projects for funding, including: support for local city parks and recreation needs; investment in maintenance, safety, and recreation services for County regional parks, trails, and open space preserves; improving access to County regional parks, trails, and open space preserves; protect- ing natural resources; and improving waterways and water quality. Specific projects in each of these categories are listed in the Expenditure Plan. The Expenditure Plan provides that tax proceeds will be used to supplement existing funding for all benefited agencies and will not be used to supplant an agency’s historical general fund support except during limited specified circumstances. If legal environmental review, such as under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) or other applicable law, is required for any particular project, the Plan provides that it be performed before the project is undertaken.

If voters approve Measure M, the Board of Supervisors will establish an independent Citizens’ Oversight Committee to review the receipts and expenditures from the tax. The Committee will produce an annual oral or written report for the Board of Supervisors and respective city councils setting forth the Committee’s finds and conclusions. Any written report will be available as a public record. Each year, Regional Parks and each incorporated city are required to prepare a report detailing the prior fiscal year’s activi- ties related to the tax and projects funded by the tax.

The tax proposed by the ordinance will become effective only if approved by a two-thirds majority of those voting on the measure.

A “yes” vote on Measure M will authorize the County to increase the sales tax rate one-eighth percent, or one-eighth cent on each dollar countywide.

The new rate would go into effect on April 1, 2019, and remain in effect until March 31, 2029. The proposed sales tax would be imposed and collected by merchants in the same manner as existing sales tax. The ordinance would raise the County’s spending limit for the maximum period allowed by law to allow the County to spend the revenue raised by the tax.

A “no” vote on Measure M will prohibit the County from imposing the proposed sales tax.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to place this measure on the ballot. The full text of Measure M, including the Expenditure Plan, follows this analysis.

 BRUCE D. GOLDSTEIN County Counsel  By: s/ Robert Pittman Assistant County Counsel

Financial effect

Sonoma County ROV (Sample Ballot)


This measure would increase the sales tax collected in Sonoma County by one-eighth of one cent per dollar (0.125%) on all taxable sales occurring in Sonoma County.

Based on records from the California State Board of Equalization for the period of July 2017 through June 2018, the additional sales tax rate of 0.125% would yield approxi- mately $12.3 million each year for Sonoma County Regional Parks, Trails, Open Space Preserves, and Local City Parks.

Under the Expenditure Plan for this measure, 66.7% of net proceeds would be allocated to Sonoma County Regional Parks and 33.3% would be allocated among the incorporated cities in Sonoma County. Over the 10 year life of the measure, County and City parks would receive approximately $123.0 million in additional funding.

The first proceeds from the measure would be realized in June 2019, with the first full year of revenues impacting the budget for fiscal year 2019-2020. Based on the fiscal year 2018-2019 adopted budget for the Sonoma County Regional Parks depart- ment, revenues (including use of fund balance and General Fund contributions) with the measure in place would increase by 28.0%, or $8.20 million.

The cities’ 33.3% portion of net proceeds under this measure would be distributed to all incorporated cities based on their pro rata share of population in incorporated Sonoma County cities. Based on this method, annual estimated revenue increases would be as follows:

               Santa Rosa                          $ 2,025,500

Petaluma                           711,600 

Rohnert Park                              494,700

Windsor                            318,400

Healdsburg                                 136,900 

Sonoma                                      129,200

Cloverdale                                  103,600

Sebastopol                                   88,400

Cotati                                          87,600

Cities Total Expenditures:$ 4,095,900 


The Expenditure Plan provides for investment into four program categories. The ex- penditure categories and revenue allocation percentage are noted below.

  1. (1)  Support local city parks and recreation needs – 33.3%;

  2. (2)  Invest in maintenance, safety and recreation services in Sonoma County Regional Parks, trails, and open space preserves – 25.0%;

  3. (3)  Improve access to Sonoma County Regional Parks, trails, and open space preserves – 23.4%; and

  4. (4)  Protect natural resources in Sonoma County Regional Parks, trails, and open space preserves – 18.3%.

The proceeds from the measure should not be used to supplant an agency’s historic general fund contribution in support of the operating cost for providing its park and recreation programs, facilities, and services. Other than during times of financial downturn or other unexpected event, general fund contributions, adjusted for onetime funding, should not be less than allocated for the previous fiscal year.

The Board of Supervisors shall establish a citizens’ oversight committee to provide transparency and ensure fiscal accountability.

If the election is successful, the County will be reimbursed for the cost of the election from the proceeds of the tax.

In accordance with the Elections Code, the scope of this fiscal impact statement has been limited to the measure’s effect on revenues and expenditures. It does not ad- dress larger countywide fiscal issues such as the measure’s effect on the overall County economy.

 s/ Erick Roeser Auditor-Controller-Treasurer-Tax Collector

Published Arguments — Arguments for and against

Arguments FOR


Vote Yes on Measure M to maintain and improve Sonoma County parks; promote resilience to fire; provide clean water, wildlife, and fish habitat; and enhance opportunities to hike, bike, camp, and enjoy the outdoors. Measure M has a detailed plan to renovate older parks, protect natural areas, reduce future wildfire risks, expand trails, and preserve access for future generations to get outdoors.

Measure M invests in our community by maintaining city and county parks. It helps us provide and improve public access to the coast, lakes and rivers, and miles of trails connecting our neighborhoods. Incredible parks like Spring Lake, Doran, Helen Putnam, Taylor Mountain, Riverfront, and Ragle Ranch will be stewarded for our community’s shared health, wellness and connection to the natural world.

Park use and acreage have increased dramatically over the past several years but funding has not kept pace. Measure M represents a modest but significant investment in managing public safety, repairing parks infrastructure, and taking care of our parks.

Lands acquired for parks will be developed, improved and fully opened more quickly with support from Measure M.

Funds from Measure M may only be used for our parks. An independent citizen oversight committee and annual audits will ensure that every penny is used for voter approved parks only purposes. To receive the funds, agencies must maintain previous funding levels for parks.

Protect Sonoma County’s parks for future generations so our children and grandchildren can enjoy our parks just as we do. Vote Yes on M.

s/ Caryl Hart PhD
Former Regional Parks Director

s/ Peter A. Lang Safari West Founder

s/ Herman J. Hernandez Latino Community Leader

s/ Tony Crabb
Puma Springs Vineyard Owner

s/ Sue Conley
Cowgirl Creamery Co-founder

Arguments AGAINST


Replies to Arguments FOR


This is the second county parks tax measure brought before voters in as many years, the first having been rejected in 2016. This measure has been tweaked from its 2016 sibling in ways arguably more appealing to voters. Unfortunately, the core defect that caused voters to reject the measure in 2016 remains.

Excess pension costs and the board of supervisors’ inability reign in these costs has led to the steady march of sales tax measures paraded before voters every election cycle. In addition to the rejected parks tax measure two years ago, voters were asked in that same election to approve additional taxes for libraries and increased hotel bed taxes. Two years earlier, voters were asked to approve sales tax increases for road repairs. Even now, plans are being laid for additional sales tax requests in 2020, one for fire protection services and a second for continued Highway 101 widening

Why, you might ask, are all these vital government services required to come hat in hand before voters every year asking for additional funding? The Independent Citizens Pension Advisory Committee, made up of independent county residents appointed by the board of supervisors to evaluate the county’s pension reform efforts to date, reported in 2016 that the county spent $269 million in excess pension costs over the past ten years. That was money that should have been used for libraries, parks, road repairs and fire services.

Until the board of supervisors musters the necessary will to address skyrocketing pension costs that sap our ability to fund every other vital government function, voters will continue to be asked to approve more and more tax increases. And until the supervisors get serious about pension reform, we cannot support giving them any more money.

Vote no on Measure M.

SONOMA COUNTY TAXPAYERS ASSOCIATIONs/ Daniel A. Drummond, Executive Director

Replies to Arguments AGAINST


Yes on Measure M to support parks.

Measure M is a modest investment that provides a stable source of parks funding and prevents future cuts in services and fee increases.

Measure M is the result of years of work by parks staff and supporters and reflects the priorities and feedback of hundreds of civic leaders and thousands of community members. Parks are core to our county’s quality of life and contribute to our communities’ immediate recovery and long-term resilience.

County and city parks are seeing a steady increase in visitation at the same time that facilities are aging and in need of repair. Regional Parks has a significant main- tenance backlog for parks built decades ago. City parks are in a similar situation. This measure provides resources to increase public safety in our parks while preserving natural resources, reducing the threat of wildfires, repairing existing parks, and creating access to new parks and trails.

Measure M funding cannot be used to meet any other county need or obligation and would not affect any current pension liability.

Sonoma County is one of a very few Bay Area counties without dedicated parks funding. Measure M will support our county’s regional and city parks, allowing them to address critical needs and preserve the integrity of our parks for our children and grandchildren. This funding puts us on par with other counties and allows us to pursue newly available matching state funds under Prop 68.

Sonoma County’s parks benefit everyone. Vote Yes on M

s/ Sylvia Lemus
Community Leader, HR Professional

s/ Karen Collins
Sonoma County Parks Commissioner

s/ Leland Fishman
Businessman, Community Leader, Rotarian

s/ Dr. Ari Hauptman
Pediatrician, Parks Foundation Director

s/ Steve Rabinowitsh
SRJC Instructor, Former Councilmember

More information

News (1)

PD Editorial: Yes on M: A plan to improve city and county parks — September 2, 2018 Santa Rosa Press Democrat
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