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Measure C: Belvedere fire initiative cruising to victory

Updated: Mar 25

A Belvedere ballot measure that will allow the city to continue spending collected property taxes on fire and emergency medical services is on track to win by a wide margin in the March 5 election.

 

Measure C, which requires a simple majority to pass, had 77% support as of March 8, the latest results available at The Ark’s press time.

 


Of the city’s 1,627 registered voters, 343 votes were cast in favor of the measure and 102 against, for a turnout of about 27% so far. However, only about half of all ballots countywide have been counted, according to the Marin Elections Department.

 

The initiative is neither a new tax nor an increase. The existing tax, passed in 2000, never expires, but since then the city must seek voter approval every four years to adjust its budget limit to spend the revenue. The revenue then funds the city’s fire-services contract with the Tiburon Fire Protection District, which in turn gets its emergency services through the Southern Marin Emergency Medical Paramedics System.

 

This year the contract is about $2.15 million, with the fire-tax revenue covering about half, or $1.1 million, and the rest coming from Belvedere’s general fund.

 

“I am really happy that it passed,” said Jena Watson, chair of the Belvedere Fire Measure Renewal Committee. “We weren’t really expecting any pushback on the measure, since it’s just a renewal on what’s already in place now.”

 

The last time the measure was renewed, in June 2020, 79% voted in favor.

 

While southern Tiburon residents live within the district’s boundaries and pay for fire and paramedic services as a percentage of their property-tax bills, Belvedere is outside the boundaries and has needed a service contract since 1980, when it disbanded its own volunteer fire department.

 

At the time, voters approved a flat parcel tax to pay for services, with a provision for modest annual increases based on cost-of-living adjustments and population changes. In 2000, voters then approved an increase with an annual escalator of up to 4%, which is signed off on by the City Council.



 The approved rate for fiscal year 2023-2024, which ends June 30, is $994 per residential unit, $1,131 per commercial structure and $199 for a vacant parcel. If the council approves the full 4% increase for fiscal 2024-2025, which begins July 1, the rate would climb to about $1,034 per parcel, $1,176 per commercial structure and about $207 per vacant parcel.

 

The latest quadrennial approval of the budget override will allow the city to keep spending the money after July 1, through June 30, 2028. Without it, Belvedere would continue to collect the fire-tax revenue but wouldn’t be allowed to spend it — meaning the city would have to discontinue fire services, draw from reserves, create its own department or find another solution.

 

The contract is already straining the city’s budget, as the annual cost has outpaced tax revenues. They originally paid for the entire contract, but that share dropped to 86% by 2000 and is now 51%, forcing Belvedere officials to allocate more of its budget each year to make up the difference.

 

Officials say that in the next few years, it could impact the ability to fund other city services, including the Police Department.

 

In the months leading up to the election, they studied a new tax, cuts to other city services or both, along with revisiting the possibility of annexation, which would allow for Belvedere to have representation on the fire agency’s board of directors. So far, however, the city hasn’t moved forward with any plans.

 

Reach Belvedere and public-safety reporter Naomi Friedland at 415-944-4627.

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