Sonoma County Measure O would impose a special sales tax — an additional .25 percent — to fund a wide range of local mental health services.
The County Auditor says the tax would generate about $25 million per year. Most of those funds would go to behavioral health services, like emergency psychiatric care and substance abuse prevention.
A small portion would also go to housing resources for those experiencing homelessness. As of 2018, almost 3,000 people are homeless on any given night in Sonoma County.
If passed, the new sales tax rate of 8.5% would start on April 1 of next year and remain in effect for ten years. It would also establish a new committee to review how Measure O’s revenues are spent.
Supporters include local Congressman Mike Thompson and the entire Board of Sonoma County Supervisors. They say the measure provides the funding and support needed to keep people with mental health emergencies out of jail. They also suggest the measure is especially important right now given the stressful impacts of wildfires, the pandemic and distance learning.
The Sonoma County Taxpayers Association and the Sonoma County Farm Bureau disagree. They oppose Measure O, questioning why the county would impose a tax during a time when people can least afford it. They say too many people have lost their jobs during the pandemic, and need to save every dollar to pay their bills.
So, if you live in Sonoma County and want to fund local mental health services with a quarter cent sales tax increase, vote yes on Measure O. If you don’t want mental health services to be funded that way, vote no.