Millbrae voters chose to renew a fire suppression assessment tax that was set to expire in May through an all-mail ballot, city officials reported Wednesday.
The results showed 56.3 percent of voters were in favor of the tax that is estimated to bring in $1.5 million annually for 10 years. Of the 6,600 ballots mailed out, 3,083 were returned.
“I’m humbled and very pleased to be part of a community that values its fire services,” said Mayor Wayne Lee. “It has the wherewithal to ensure fire services.”
The fire suppression tax to fund fire services was first passed in 2004 and extended in 2009. It currently brings in $1.2 million annually. The renewal comes with an annual tax of $174.83 per single family home, and for each dwelling unit for multi-family parcels with three or more dwellings in the amount of $125.19. For commercial uses, the tax is based on the number of rooms in the hotel, number of beds in various residential care facilities and the land use/building square footage for other non-residential land uses in the various amounts designated in the engineer’s report.
“We want to continue to provide the residents of Millbrae with the best fire and public safety services,” Millbrae Fire Chief Mark Ladas said in a statement. “It is an honor to be a part of this community.”
Other councilmembers were pleased with the results, including Councilwoman Marge Colapietro.
“I’m very, very pleased and grateful to the members of the committee to support the Millbrae fire assessment for their diligent efforts during the past couple of months. I also give my heartfelt gratitude to our property owners for the renewed trust they have shown in the leadership of the community. I also know that this afternoon our focus needs to turn to the additional important work before us like focusing on our city budget and boosting economic development,” Colapietro said Wednesday after the votes were counted.
Councilwoman Anne Oliva called the passage business as usual.
“It means stability,” she said. “We can move on.”
Mail-in ballots were sent out on March 8 and property owners were given 45 days to turn in ballots. Ballots were due Tuesday night.
Millbrae voters originally passed the $144 annual fee for fire services on single-family homes as one solution to address the city’s budget crisis, which began in 2001, according to a staff report.
Resources have been dwindling, City Manager Marcia Raines previously said. She said that the city still needs to pay for employee benefits and that the city’s streets are at the bottom of state and countywide levels of sustainability.
The city has implemented more efficiencies, such as adopting shared services with nearby fire agencies. Still, these won’t be enough to sustain the city financially, she noted. A handful of Millbrae residents spoke out at a Tuesday night council meeting about the measure. Brian Martin complained that too much money is being spent on firefighters salaries and pensions.
The new assessment is slated to go into effect in June.
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