Sonoma voters balk at change in government structure

June 9, 2010 2:09:42 PM PDT
Sonoma County voters passed three measures that asked them for money Tuesday but balked at making a change in the county government's structure.

Voters in the Mark West Union School District approved Measure C, a $14 million bond issue to improve schools and classrooms. It required 55 percent approval and received 59 percent of the vote, according to complete unofficial figures.

Proponents said since voters approved a previous bond measure in 2002, test scores increased but now local students need classrooms and facilities comparable to neighboring schools.

The money will be matched by up to $5 million in state funding and will fix leaky roofs, heating and ventilation systems and improve energy efficiency.

Voters defeated Measure D, which would have amended the 1950 Sonoma County Civil Service Ordinance. The measure needed majority approval and received 47 percent.

The current Civil Service Ordinance provides that the director of personnel must be appointed by the Civil Service Commission and provides the director of personnel shall be in the classified, protected service.

The amendment to the ordinance that voters rejected would have changed the appointing authority from the Civil Service Commission to the Board of Supervisors and would change the director of personnel to an unclassified position consistent with other county department heads.

The director of personnel also would have been renamed "director of human resources."

Proponents of the measure said it would have returned accountability for the entire scope of human resources back to the elected supervisors and allows the supervisors to effectively manage the 4,000 county employees.

Measure E asked Rohnert Park voters to approve a half-cent sales tax for five years to pay for police and fire services, 911 emergency response, gang and sex offender enforcement, street paving, parks and recreation and other services. It required majority approval and passed with 55 percent.

The money will go into the city's general fund and be used as authorized by the City Council. The City's sales tax rate will rise to 9.50 percent.

Proponents said the money is needed because the state government is draining the city's coffers and jeopardizing city services. Without the tax increase, drastic cuts to public safety would follow, proponents said.

Opponents said the tax was expected to raise $2.5 million a year for five years, the same amount the city spent on a new city hall, eastside sewer line for future development, street paving that is already failing and other projects. Opponents said the City Council must instead reduce spending.

Russian River Fire Protection District voters approved Measure F, an annual parcel tax between $70 and $350 per parcel. The money will finance the fire protection district's services.

The measure needed two-thirds approval and received 70 percent.

Proponents said the district has not had a tax increase since 1980 and employees have agreed to pay freezes and paying a portion of their health insurance. Without the tax, the district's reserve funds will be spent by June 2011, response times will increase and staff will be reduced, proponents said.


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