The Kenwood Press
: 02/01/2017

Politics on Tap

Jay Gamel

The county Board of Supervisors set March 7 as the date for a Special Election for two tax measures affecting Sonoma Valley residents, cleverly named Measure A and Measure B.

Measure A

Measure A asks voters in the unincorporated areas of Sonoma County if they support a cannabis business tax – up to $38 a square foot (growing area) or up to 10 percent on gross receipts on commercial marijuana cultivation – from seed to market – that could bring in as much as $3.8 million in its first year (starting in January, 2018).

The money would be used to “to fund essential county services such as addressing industry impacts, public safety, fire, health, housing, roads, and environmental protection, with funds staying local and subject to audits, generating undetermined revenue until repealed.”

This is a general tax measure which calls for a simple majority of voters in the unincorporated areas of the county to pass, since the money goes directly into the county general fund, according to Deputy Registrar Lis Acosta.

The numbers in the measure are the top tax rates allowed. Initially, the figures will be much lower, but they could be raised by the supervisors without a county-wide vote until they reach the limits set in Measure A.

For now, the county is sticking to the fee model rather than exercising the considerable authority provided by this ordinance to review cultivator books and bank accounts to apply the percentage of gross receipts method.

The initial flat fee on several classes of commercial growers ranges from $.50 per square foot of ground planted up to $18.75 a square foot for medium-size indoor growers. Cultivation can happen outdoors, in greenhouses, and indoors: each is assessed differently according to the potential yield.

Full text of the measure can be found at sonomacounty.ca.gov/CAO/Cannabis/Adopted-Medical-Cannabis-Program-Ordinances-and-Policies/.

Measure B

Measure B is a call for voters in the Sonoma Valley Health Care District to approve a five-year, $250 parcel tax to keep Sonoma Valley Hospital’s Emergency Room running and for other improvements, though this money will not be used for capital improvements, “other than improvements made in connection with the day-to-day operational needs of the District.”

“The existing parcel tax expires at the end of 2017,” Peter Hohorst said. He has served on the District’s Board for eight years and heads up the campaign to pass Measure B. He noted that the old parcel tax rate of $195 has been in effect since 2007 and a raise is needed.

The District will continue to employ its currently established administrative review process to grant exemptions and consider appeals with respect to contiguous parcels.

Measure B will generate approximately $3.8 million a year for the Health Care District.

Most, but not all of Kenwood was formerly in the District from 1944 until it was separated out in 2005. Glen Ellen residents are entirely within the SVHCD and will vote on the Measure. See yesonmeasurebsonoma.com.

Both measures can be examined in detail at the County Registrar’s website, vote.sonoma-county.org.

Feb. 20 is the last day to register to vote in this election. You can vote by mail as early as Feb. 6. If you think you’d like to work at the polls, go the website mentioned above and click on the “Poll Workers Needed For March 7, 2017 Special Election” link.