HomeCity Government NewsCity Asks Residents to Vote ‘Yes’ on Public Safety

City Asks Residents to Vote ‘Yes’ on Public Safety

San Marino’s Public Safety Parcel Tax is seen, in many ways, as the backbone to the small town’s feeling of security. 

Funding from the tax provides for police officers, firefighters and paramedics — all of whom keep the city safe and sound — and the services they are responsible for delivering.

The City Council voted on Friday to put the Public Safety Parcel Tax back on the Nov. 5 general election ballot, where voters will have the opportunity to continue the city’s tradition of fostering a strong commitment to public safety. If two-thirds of voters mark “yes” on their ballot, the tax measure will again fund the necessary services that San Marino residents have grown to rely on.

“One of the hallmark characteristics that sets San Marino apart from most other cities is the city’s pride in, and commitment to, public safety,” the city said in a statement. “San Marino has become synonymous with the gold standard of safety that many other communities attempt to emulate. This level of service and safety is a direct result of the community’s constant support of the city’s police, fire and paramedic services.”

The Public Service Tax was first approved by voters in the 1980s and has been approved in every election it has been placed on the ballot. The current city of San Marino Public Safety Tax will expire on June 30, 2025. If passed, this ballot measure would be extended for another four years.

The tax measure will appear on the ballot alongside the San Marino Unified School District’s $200 million general obligation bond measure to update its facilities.

City staff estimate collections for fiscal year 2024-25 to come in at about $3.7 million. The cost of placing this measure on the Nov. 5 ballot is included in the total estimated cost of the election, which is $50,000. This amount is included in the fiscal year 2024-25 operating budget. 

The tax rate is calculated based on resident parcel size and the property’s location in one of the assigned special public safety tax zones. The maximum amount per residential parcel ranged from $514 to $1,394 in fiscal year 2020-21.

City Manager Philippe Eskandar said council decided not to increase the new measure’s Public Safety Tax rate earlier this year, but if passed, San Marino will still be able to “carry out the five-star, really just top-tier public safety that this community has come to expect.”

A “no” vote would eliminate the Special Public Safety Tax at the end of the 2024-25 fiscal year, which public officials said would be detrimental.

“In the unfortunate circumstance that this doesn’t pass, we would present to council a series of options and alternatives the council would have to consider to balance the budget, whether it be cuts in departments, reductions in services, closed office hours, you name it,” Eskandar said.

Though the Safety Parcel Tax has been allotted into the budget already, absent this, the city would have to reconfigure the numbers after learning the results in December.

The anticipated revenue generated from the tax represents the funding of dozens of staff and personnel positions, Eskandar said.

“You can’t cut an entire department and make up that amount of funding,” he said. “What it means is that the impact would be felt by the community, whether it is public safety services, whether we’d have to dial down any other department to back-fill it. … But there would most definitely be a visible, palpable impact to service delivery in this community.”

While Eskandar said if the measure is rejected, the council may shift funding to other departments to still offer some public safety services, albeit to a lesser degree. However, the services would be cut, with fewer police officers patrolling the streets and fewer firefighters and paramedics able to respond to emergencies.

One resident took to the podium to voice his support of the Public Safety Tax, while also expressing an urgency to educate the community about the consequences of eliminating the tax.

“I do believe there is a lot of support for this particular tax on the community, and I would encourage the city council to do their best to inform the public about this,” the speaker said.

Mayor Steven Huang, speaking from experience after being on the council for more than eight years and chairing the public safety committee twice, echoed a similar sentiment and enthusiasm on the subject, saying that San Marino deserves to be just as safe in future years as it has been since the 1980s.

“I know how important this is, so let’s push this through again,” Huang said.

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