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Tuesday March 3, 2020 — Primary Election
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County

Sonoma County
Measure G - 2/3 Approval Required

To learn more about measures, follow the links for each tab in this section. For most screenreaders, you can hit Return or Enter to enter a tab and read the content within.

Election Results

Failed

118,297 votes yes (64.84%)

64,146 votes no (35.16%)

100% of precincts reporting (526/526).

187,208 ballots counted.

To improve local fire prevention and protection by: installing emergency warning sirens and alerting systems; improving vegetation management to prevent the spread of wildfire; attracting and retaining qualified, local firefighters and emergency personnel; and, modernizing fire department equipment, facilities and stations, shall Sonoma County establish a ½-cent sales tax until ended by voters, providing approximately $51,000,000 annually, with annual audits and citizen oversight, and increase its annual appropriations limit to allow expenditure of the proceeds?

What is this proposal?

Details — Official information

YES vote means

A “yes” vote on Measure G will authorize the County to increase the sales tax rate one-half percent, or 1⁄2-cent on each dollar countywide.

NO vote means

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

Impartial analysis / Proposal

Source: Sonoma County Registrar of Voters

County Counsel’s Impartial Analysis of Measure G

Measure G asks voters whether the County of Sonoma should impose a 1⁄2-cent special sales tax countywide to be used exclusively to supplement existing funding for disaster alerts, vegetation management, fire suppression and fire-fighting services, and wildfire prevention provided by the 38 fire agencies (including the County of Sonoma) set forth in the Expenditure Plan. The Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to place this measure on the ballot. The full text of Measure G, including the Expenditure Plan, is published in this voter information pamphlet.

If approved, Measure G would impose a special tax that will provide approximately $51,000,000 of revenue annually. As a special tax, those revenues will be placed in a separate fund maintained in the County Treasury and may be used only for the specific purposes set forth in the full text of Measure G.

The Expenditure Plan lists five categories of projects that may be funded by the tax, including: (i) new and improved alert warnings and sirens; (ii) vegetation management, and wildfire prevention, preparedness, and response; (iii) recruitment and retention of firefighters; (iv) incentivizing consolidations and addressing other fire response and prevention needs; and (v) facility improvements and equipment upgrades. Specific projects in each of these categories are listed in the Expenditure Plan. The Expenditure Plan also describes the amount of tax to be allocated to each of the 38 fire agencies. The Expenditure Plan provides that tax proceeds shall be used to supplement existing funding for all benefited agencies and will not be used to supplant an agency’s historical general fund contribution from ad valorem property taxes or parcel taxes.

If voters approve Measure G, the Board of Supervisors will establish an Independent Citizens’ Oversight Committee to provide transparency and fiscal accountability. The Committee will review the receipts and expenditures from the tax, including the independent audit of each agency’s use of the tax proceeds. Additional Accountability Safeguards include: (i) annual audits of each agency’s use of the tax proceeds conducted by an independent certified public accountancy firm; and (ii) an annual report from each agency submitted to the Citizens’ Oversight Committee detailing the agency’s prior fiscal year activities and updates on specific projects funded by the tax.

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

A “yes” vote on Measure G will authorize the County to increase the sales tax rate one-half percent, or 1⁄2-cent on each dollar countywide.

The new rate would go into effect on October 1, 2020, and remain in effect until ended by voters. The proposed sales tax would be imposed and collected by merchants in the same manner as state-imposed sales tax. Measure G would also raise the County’s spending limit for the maximum period allowed by law to allow the County to spend the revenue raised by the proposed tax.

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

 

BRUCE D. GOLDSTEIN
County Counsel

By: s/ Robert Pittman
Assistant County Counsel

Financial effect

Source: Sonoma County Registrar of Voters

County Auditor’s Fiscal Impact Statement — Measure G

This measure would increase the sales tax collected in Sonoma County by one-half of one cent per dollar (0.5%) on all taxable sales occurring in Sonoma County.

Based on records from the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration for the period of July 2018 through June 2019, the additional sales tax rate of 0.5% would yield approximately $51.0 million each year for wildfire prevention and response, emergency alerts, and vegetation management in Sonoma County.

Under the Expenditure Plan for this measure, 90.0% of net proceeds would be allocated to fire agencies throughout the incorporated and unincorporated territory of the County and 10.0% would be allocated to the County. The County’s 10.0% share would be allocated between the Sonoma County Department of Emergency Management and the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. The first proceeds from the measure would be realized in December 2020.

The 90.0% portion of net proceeds allocated to incorporated and unincorporated fire agencies would fund alerts, warnings, sirens, vegetation management, wildfire prevention and preparedness, response, recruitment and retention of firefighters, and equipment and facilities. Proceeds would be distributed based on the tax allocation Exhibits included in the Expenditure Plan. Annual estimated revenue increases would be as follows:

Independent Fire Districts $ 25,819,000
County Service Area 40   7,795,000
Santa Rosa   5,510,000
Rohnert Park   2,515,000
Petaluma   1,954,000
Sebastopol   959,000
Healdsburg   786,000
Sonoma   566,000
  $ 45,904,000

The County of Sonoma Department of Emergency Management would receive an annual allocation of $2,551,000 for the construction, operation, and maintenance of alert systems, notifications, sirens, and other warning services. The Board of Supervisors would receive an annual allocation of $637,000 to incentivize consolidation of fire agencies and other fire response and prevention needs and an estimated $1,908,000 to be used towards regional vegetation management services.

The Expenditure Plan provides for investment into four program categories, with revenue allocation percentages noted below:

  • (1) Alert, Warnings, and Sirens; Vegetation Management; and Wildfire Prevention, Preparedness, and Response – 80.0%;
  • (2) Recruitment and Retention of Firefighters – 5.5%;
  • (3) Incentivize Consolidation and Address Other Fire Response and Prevention Needs – 1.25%; and
  • (4) Equipment and Facilities – 13.25%.

The proceeds from the measure shall be used to supplement existing services and shall not be used to pay for existing operations. Fire agencies and districts, with the exception of cities, shall receive tax proceeds if those agencies work toward regional consolidation in order to achieve efficient, effective, and sustainable services in the county. A consolidation review will be conducted once every three years.

The Board of Supervisors shall establish an Independent 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 address 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

Argument in Favor of Measure G

Sonoma County has faced significant and unforeseen challenges in recent years as the threats posed by wildfires have strained the quality-of-life as we know it for all those who live, work and visit here. Prevention and preparedness are becoming the new normal, and as we adapt to this new reality, our approach to fire prevention and preparedness must also evolve to safeguard life and property during future emergencies.

Measure G will improve emergency warning and alerting systems while placing emergency sirens in various locations. Investments in strengthening our emergency alerting systems will save lives.

Currently, there are not enough firefighters on duty to meet the daily needs of the communities we serve. Measure G will strengthen wildfire prevention and protection initiatives by hiring approximately 200 additional firefighters and fire prevention officers to provide round-the-clock services to respond to wildfires, medical emergencies, reduce fuel loads and enhance vegetation management programs. While Sonoma County was fortunate to have significant outside help during the Kincade Fire, our communities must become more self-sufficient to manage future crises on our own in the event of simultaneous wildfires in other parts of the state.

Measure G will provide the resources needed to modernize fire protection equipment while adding, relocating or improving fire stations in strategic locations to strengthen our ability to combat fires and other emergencies throughout Sonoma County.

All funds from Measure G can only be used within Sonoma County for wildfire prevention and protection programs in addition to improvements to emergency alerting systems, fire stations and firefighting equipment.

Mandatory independent audits and a citizens’ oversight committee will ensure all funds generated from Measure G are invested as promised.

Vote Yes to increase preparedness during future wildfires, improve emergency alerting systems, and ensure we have the resources needed to keep our communities safe.

Vote Yes on Measure G.

www.YesonGSonoma.com

s/ Jason Boaz
President, So Co Fire Chief’s Assoc. 

s/ Mark Heine
Fire Chief, So Co Fire Dist.

s/ Steve Akre 
Chief, Sonoma Valley Fire & Rescue

s/ Mike Mickelson
Chief, Volunteer Fire Companies

s/ Chris Godley
Director, So Co Dept. of Emergency Management

— Source: Sonoma County Registrar of Voters

Arguments AGAINST

Argument Against Measure G

This half-percent sales tax is overreach. It is simply too much. As a county-wide tax it is expected to cost us about $50 million per year. A quarter-percent tax would have been much more reasonable and would have been adequate.

There are already many taxes in place to support the various fire agencies. A county-wide half-percent tax might have been more palatable if these other taxes would simultaneously get repealed. Of course that will not be the case.

There are sales taxes and parcel taxes in place, depending on your location and fire agency. Santa Rosa has multiple quarter-percent sales taxes for public safety which funds police and fire services. The Gold Ridge Fire District recently approved a $200 parcel tax and there are other agencies with even higher parcel taxes. So it is likely that if this new sales tax is approved you will be paying it on top of preexisting tax.

Public employee unions are not shy when it comes to promoting tax increases. Fortunately public employee compensation is public record. Voters who care to investigate will find total compensation in excess of $200,000 is commonplace. Such information can be found online using links such as this one: https://transparentcalifornia.com/salaries/2018/santa-rosa/timothy-d-aboudara/

Consider a no vote to encourage a future reduced quarter-percent tax measure.

s/ Michael A. Hilber

— Source: Sonoma County Registrar of Voters

Replies to Arguments FOR

Rebuttal to Argument in Favor of Measure G

This is an excessive tax, a regressive tax, and the expenditure plan, or how the funds are to be allocated, deserves to be scrutinized and questioned.

As a county-wide sales tax, half percent or 50 million dollars per year no less, it needs to be divided up among the many agencies within the county. How this division, or allocation, is made should be of concern.

One of the stated goals was to “bring up the VFC’s” referring to the volunteer fire companies. There is an “Expenditure Plan (Attachment 1)” associated with this measure which will be contained in the election materials. If you were to look through that you may come to the conclusion that too much funding will go to the large fully unionized agencies like Santa Rosa Fire, and thus the goal of “bringing up the VFC’s” is not being well served.

You may also want to read this linked Press Democrat article in which compensation levels are declared “inflammatory” to better understand where your money is going: https://www.pressdemocrat.com/home/8238145-181/santa-rosa-declares-impasse-in

s/ Michael A. Hilber

— Source: Sonoma County Registrar of Voters

Replies to Arguments AGAINST

Rebuttal to Argument Against Measure G

Measure G was crafted by Sonoma County Fire Chiefs to better protect our communities from the threat of wildfires and increase preparedness by strengthening emergency alerting sirens and warning systems based on a standard of coverage analysis of the entire county.

Sonoma County residents live, work, and play throughout Sonoma County and Measure G helps keep both residents and visitors safe. With a sales tax, visitors and residents contribute towards fire prevention and preparedness – not just property owners.

First responders understand that fires and other disasters know no jurisdictional boundaries – Measure G ensures both urban and rural fire agencies have the additional resources necessary to be prepared and to face emergencies.

Measure G funding would be restricted to emergency alerting, recruiting and retaining firefighters and investing in fire stations to improve emergency response times while replacing outdated equipment. An independent citizens’ oversight committee and annual audits will ensure all funds are invested as promised.

Measure G requires Sonoma County’s 38 fire agencies work towards regional consolidation as a condition of funding. Consolidation will create efficiencies that further strengthen fire services while reducing administrative costs.

A quarter-cent sales tax would simply be insufficient to meet the needs identified within the analysis performed by the Chiefs.

Given the devastation of the 2017 wildfires and 2019 Kincade Fire, we face a new reality that requires a new approach to protect life and property.

Vote Yes to increase fire prevention, preparedness and strengthen Sonoma County’s ability to address the threat of future wildfires and other emergencies.

Vote Yes on Measure G.

www.YesonGSonoma.com

s/ Anthony Gossner
Fire Chief, Santa Rosa Fire Dept.

s/ Mark Heine
Fire Chief, So Co Fire Dist.

s/ David Franceschi
Chief, Forestville Fire Protection Dist. 

s/ Mark Essick
Sheriff-Coroner

s/ Jason Boaz
President, Sonoma County Fire Chief’s Association

— Source: Sonoma County Registrar of Voters

More information

News (1)

High hopes for sales tax to aid county fire effort — January 12, 2020 The Press Democrat
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Who supports or opposes this measure?

Yes on Measure G

Organizations (1)

Elected & Appointed Officials (0)
No on Measure G
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Elected & Appointed Officials (0)

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