Fiscal Crisis

Maintaining Sebastopol City Services

Learn More About Sebastopol’s Services and Budget

What Are Sebastopol’s Core City Services?

Streets, Roads and Infrastructure

Sebastopol was incorporated in 1902, and much of our infrastructure is aging and without sufficient funds to maintain/replace.

Recent road assessments found roughly 40% of the City’s streets and roads were in either “poor” or “very poor” condition. Current estimates suggest the City needs about $1 million a year to maintain our assets such as parks, the Senior Center, and to protect our streets from further deterioration. Modest improvements to our local streets and roads will require an additional $1.4 million annually.

At some point we will need to replace Ives Pool. The Fire station needs dry rot repairs. The Community Center has been damaged by past flooding. We have Insufficient funds to replace City vehicles and technology. Fencing at Libby Park is outdated. Paths in Ives Park need help. The list of needs is long.

Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

The Sebastopol Police Department is a full-service law enforcement agency tasked with providing public safety services to our Sebastopol community. There are 12 Full Time Sworn Police Officers assigned. In 2023 there were 12,384 calls for service, an increase of 4,641 from the prior year. Nearly 600 calls were related to unhoused individuals.

The Fire Department has two full-time Fire Engineers, and 31 Stipend Volunteer Fire Fighters. In 2023 they responded to 1,325 calls – a 30% increase from a decade ago.

The City also works on Emergency Preparedness, and completed its Local Hazard Mitigation Plan in 2022. Sebastopol still faces lasting impacts from natural disasters and ongoing threats. For example, we suffered major damage from flooding in 2019, and need to improve our ability to handle future floods.

Wildfires within 10 miles of the City have increased in the past decade. The largest of these were the 2018 Camp Fire, 2019 Kincade Fire and 2020 Glass Fire. We’re all well aware of the risks, as illustrated by smoke from fires in recent weeks.

What is Our City’s Budget?

The City’s General Fund pays for services including police, fire, parks, support for non-profits, and other services and infrastructure.  For years, we have relied on one-time funds – those that will not be available in the future – to fund on-going services. This is not sustainable.

The City Council will soon consider the budget for FY 24-25. While we expect revenues to be close to those in FY 23-24, the budget will likely include significant reductions, including reducing support for non-profits and cutting contracts. Across the City our staffing is near or below minimum levels. We are at risk of depleting our reserves in a few years without changes.

What has the City Done to Manage its Budget?

The City has been working to reduce costs and become more efficient. Among the measures taken include:

  • Prior year budget made reductions across departments, holding staff vacancies open, cutting contracts and otherwise reducing services.
  • Reduced support to local nonprofits.
  • Reduced maintenance of aging infrastructure.
  • Moving to Consolidate Fire Services with the Gold Ridge Fire District.
  • The City of Sebastopol has received the Certificate of Achievement from the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) for six consecutive years.

To address the structural deficit, the City will need to explore substantial changes that both further reduce costs as well as those that could bring additional revenue into the City. Without such measures, further and severe reductions will be needed.

What is an Example of a Revenue Measure to Maintain Service Levels?

The City is considering a potential sales tax to help support its General Fund. Funding from this measure could help maintain the city’s fiscal sustainability and be used for services including:

  • Maintaining 911 Police, Fire and Emergency Medical Response Times.
  • Maintenance of Local Streets and Roads.
  • Preparing for the Threat of Wildfires and Natural Disasters.
  • Youth and Senior Services.
  • Supporting Local Non-Profits.
  • Maintaining Parks and Ives Pool, the Library and Other City Recreation Facilities.
  • And any other services and infrastructure maintained by the general fund.

This measure would have to be referred to the ballot by a Super-Majority of the City Council, and then approved by a majority vote of the City’s voters. The City is considering various rates for this potential Sales Tax.

Community Feedback

The City of Sebastopol and its elected leaders are committed to maintaining our local quality of life and supporting the core services and infrastructure that our residents, business, and visitors rely on every day. The City is currently facing a number of challenges, including rising costs and the potential for budget deficits in coming years.

As part of planning to meet these demands, and potentially present options for additional revenue to support local services, the City asked residents to give feedback on their priorities to help guide decision making. A variety of methods were used:  Town Halls, a Community Survey, and a Poll of randomly selected residents conducted by a third party polling organization.

Community Survey Results

The City conducted a Community Priorities Survey over several weeks in June and July 2024. Over 1,000 responses were received.

Respondents identified the top three priorities as:

  • Providing effective public safety, including 911 emergency medical/police/fire response
  • Managing city finances
  • City response to floods, wildfires, and other natural disasters

Final Report

Survey Open Ended Responses

Poll Results

The City contracted with Probolsky Research to conduct a City Services Measure Voter Poll June 27 – July 7, 2024, with live-interviewer telephone and online responses among City voters.  A total of 300 voters were surveyed.

Probolsky Research – City of Sebastopol – City Services Measure Voter Poll – Results Memo

Probolsky Research – City of Sebastopol – City Services Voter Poll – Results Presentation

Community Town Hall Meetings

Town Hall Meetings were held virtually on July 8, 2024 and in person on July 10, 2024.

Thank you to all who attended.

Click HERE to watch July 8, 2024 Town Hall Meeting Recording.

Click HERE to see Town Hall Budget Presentation