Economic issues top Petaluma council's list of goals

Financial stability, healthy growth and finding new revenue sources are top goals for Petaluma city leaders in the next two years.

The seven members of the City Council met in a daylong workshop last month to hash out a priority list for the next two years. Monday night, the council will formally vote on the goals intended to make Petaluma a safer, more prosperous place to live, work and shop.

The changes will result in an "aggressive work plan," City Manager John Brown said, to help the city get back on firm financial footing and rebuild its rainy day fund.

Among dozens of ideas and objectives, the plan includes a new position in the finance department that will cost more than $100,000 a year.

"This position will need to have sufficient technical and professional skills to conduct complex analyses and perform all the ancillary work associated with those tasks," Brown said.

Brown said he would bring the position to the council soon, with a funding source.

The city has reduced its workforce over each of the past five years as the general fund budget has shrunk from $48 million in 2008 to about $32 million this year. Services have been cut or privatized and workers accepted unpaid furloughs and pay cuts.

Among the financial stability priorities are reducing debt service in all city funds, reducing unfunded pension liabilities and developing a plan to meet the 15 percent general fund reserve goal — currently the reserve is at about 3 percent.

The council also wants to find revenues to replace the loss of redevelopment money and, among other ideas, will consider placing a sales tax increase on the 2014 ballot.

The council also wants to come up with a policy to regulate medical marijuana "grow houses." The city has no medical marijuana dispensaries and no guidelines on the cultivation of the plant in private homes.

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