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Belvedere has increased its special property tax to help fund fire and emergency services.

The City Council unanimously approved the tax increase at its meeting on Monday. Council member Jim Lynch was absent.

The tax for the 2024-25 tax year is $1,028.02 for residential homes, $1,170.16 for commercial properties and $205.82 for vacant lots. For the current tax year, which ends June 30, the tax is $994 per residential home, $1,131 per commercial property and $199 per vacant lot.

β€œThe revenue for the fire department is about half of what we ultimately pay, and they are subsidized from the general fund,” said Mayor Peter Mark.

The city’s budget is strained by steadily rising fire department costs. A proposed budget for the 2024-25 fiscal year showed a 7.5% increase in the contract with the Tiburon Fire Protection District. The contract costs about $2.1 million and is expected to rise to $2.4 million in the next budget cycle.

The city will also make one of two payments of $92,500 of its annual Section 115 contribution – an escrow account needed to fund employee benefits.

The increased property tax is expected to generate about $1.13 million in the next fiscal year, leaving about $1.27 million to fund the fire and emergency services.

“The revenue from this levy is spent only on the fire department. However, it does not cover the entire cost of the fire department. To make up the difference, a transfer from the general fund is necessary,” said Helga Cotter, director of administrative services.

Belvedere residents passed a Fire and Emergency Services Tax in 2000, and the City Council passes a resolution to impose this tax annually. The tax is increased annually based on the percentage change in population and the statewide per capita cost of living.

Councilmember Jane Cooper asked if the city has always made pension payments under the fire department contract. The city will have to pay about $185,000 into the employee benefits trust account over the next few years.

Council member Sally Wilkinson said the payments are part of the contract and are shared annually with Tiburon.

“Ultimately, we have to bear these costs, and that’s why we decided to pay them now and spread them out over a longer period of time rather than wait until they’re received by CalPERS, because then they’re technically treated as costs, because then they would be large costs,” Wilkinson said. “It’s a smoothing measure.”

Cooper suggested asking the Tiburon Fire Protection District if a non-voting representative could be included, even informally, in its monthly meeting to advocate for Belvedere.

“That is, of course, the big problem that no one is debating and I don’t want people to think that we in the Finance Committee are not thinking about finding solutions because we cannot go on like this forever,” Wilkinson said.

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