Why did Sonoma County ask voters to approve a parks tax measure?
Sonoma County Regional Parks has built one of the most diverse park systems in California. Fifty-six parks, trails and beaches attract 5 million annual visits to the Sonoma Coast, Russian River, Sonoma Valley and the county’s other unique landscapes. Park attendance has increased 38 percent since 2010 and parkland has increased by 6,000 acres (96 percent). But funding did not kept pace with this growth.
What are the needs?
The funding needs of Sonoma County’s parks are substantial. They include increasing costs to operate and maintain parks, protect natural resources, reduce wildfire risk, and open new parks to the public. Regional and city parks also struggle to meet growing demand for recreation, health, safety and education programs, including for our aging population. All of these needs affect our parks systems’ abilities to deliver quality services.
What are the details of Measure M?
Voters in Sonoma County were asked in the Nov. 6, 2018 general election to consider Measure M, a one-eighth cent sales tax (0.125%) to support Sonoma County's regional parks system as well as city parks for 10 years. The tax applies to all areas in Sonoma County and will generate an estimated $11.5 million annually for improving and maintaining parks. The measure was approved by 72.6 percent of county voters.
How much does the tax cost?
At 0.125%, the tax adds 3 cents to a $25 purchase and 12 cents to a $100 purchase.
How does the measure help Sonoma County Regional Parks?
Two-thirds of the funds collected will be spent on Sonoma County Regional Parks, enabling the department to:
- Maintain parks, trails & open spaces
- Help protect water quality
- Reduce risk of future wildfires
- Protect wildlife habitats & fisheries
- Improve access for the underserved
- Support neighborhood parks & recreation
How does the measure benefit city parks?
One-third of all the money will be shared by Sonoma County’s cities to maintain and improve local parks. Each city will determine how best to prioritize its funding projects. Each city has diverse needs, as Regional Parks managers learned through countywide outreach it began in 2015.
How does the tax help make our parks safer?
Funds will be used to maintain parks and trails, restore parks impacted by fires, reduce wildfire fuels, address invasive plants, improve signs and maps for visitors, modernize facilities, including restrooms, and maintain sports fields and recreation areas – all of which help make our parks safer.
How can we be sure the tax revenue is spent on parks?
A citizens oversight committee has been appointed to regularly review how the revenue is spent and to ensure public transparency throughout the measure's 10-year life. The committee will produce annual reports and present them to the Board of Supervisors at public meetings. The measure also requires that revenue not be used to reduce existing funding for parks and recreation.
Does the sales tax apply to all areas of Sonoma County?
Yes, all jurisdictions within Sonoma County, including every city and unincorporated area, is having the tax collected. The funds are split among the Sonoma County Regional Parks system and the city parks. Two-thirds of the funds go to the Regional Parks and one-third to city parks.
How are the funds being spent?
The measure’s expenditure plan designates revenue for specific needs within four categories. Each category will receive a percentage of the proposed sales tax revenues:
- Support for local parks, recreation needs and fire risk reduction – 33.3 percent, estimated at $38.3 million
- Protect water quality, wildlife habitat and natural resources in Sonoma County's regional parks, trails and open space preserves – 18.3 percent, estimated at $21.1 million
- Investing in maintenance, safety and recreation services in Sonoma County's regional parks, trails and open space preserves – 25 percent, estimated at $28.7 million
- Improve access to Sonoma County's regional parks, trails and open space preserves- 23.4 percent, estimated at $26.8 million
Who pays the tax?
Anyone who buys a taxable good in Sonoma County will contribute to the tax revenue, regardless of where they live, including tourists and day visitors. Many taxable purchases are discretionary, according to county tax data, with the greatest taxable spending on wine, gas station purchases, and restaurant meals.
How can I get more information?
If you have questions and comments about Measure M, please email Regional Parks at firstname.lastname@example.org.