Fire dept deal may be costly for San Carlos

San Carlos and Belmont may have saved their joint fire department from dissolution, but the choice to stay together could bring increasing financial pain to San Carlos, which already faces a budget shortfall of nearly $900,000.

Both cities agreed this year that, because San Carlos has more homes, businesses and calls to the Belmont-San Carlos Fire Department, the city would pay a little more than its former 50/50 share — 52.3 percent to Belmont’s 47.7 percent, according to Fire Chief Doug Fry. In 2007-08, that means San Carlos is paying an extra $117,000, while Belmont is paying that much less.

That number is going to rise in future years, San Carlos City Manager Mark Weiss said.

“The fire department offered us the opportunity to ease into the increased cost,” Weiss said during a budget session May 7.

While fire and other costs rise, San Carlos is considering deep cuts in other areas, including the elimination of five City Hall jobs and across-the-board reductions in departments such as the Planning Department and Recreation and Park.

In the coming years, San Carlos will have to foot its 52 percent of bills for additional disaster preparedness, salary increases for fire employees, and long-term costs such as vehicle replacement and equipment costs, Fry said. Both cities face cost increases as the fire department struggles to pay off $13 million in retiree benefits and other costs for its employees.

Meanwhile, Belmont’s 2007-08 budget is flush, and the city will have $6.1 million in property tax set aside especially for fire-related services, according to Belmont Finance Director Thomas Fil. Its fire department bill, by comparison, is $5.1 million.

However, Belmont is in good shape, both overall and with respect to fire funding, due to major financial restructuring in recent years, Fil said.

Voters in both cities have turned down two chances to increase fire funding with a 2003 property tax and a 2006 property assessment aimed at raising $3 million and $2.3 million a year, respectively.

Although San Carlos is paying more now, that could change with time, officials in both cities said.

“They could stop growing,” said Belmont Mayor Coralin Feierbach. “Or the assessed value in our cities may change, and we may pay more as we build along El Camino. Or they could create their own [property tax] district.”

Meanwhile, San Carlos officials, for the most part, thought the new funding split was fair, according to councilman Matt Grocott.

“We could move down the road and maybe [finances] would be just the opposite, where San Carlos is going gangbusters with new economic development while Belmont could be flat,” Grocott said.

bwinegarner@examiner.com


hat do you think of the joint fire department?

Share your comments below.

Bay Area NewsLocalneighborhoods

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

California is set to receive supplies of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is still under review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (Courtesy photo)
California could receive 380K doses of new J&J COVID vaccine next week

California could receive 380,300 doses of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine… Continue reading

Disability advocates protested outside the home of San Francisco Health Officer Tomas Aragon. (Courtesy Brooke Anderson)
Vaccine rollout plan for people with disabilities remains deeply flawed

On February 13, disability activists paid a visit to the house of… Continue reading

A Bay Area Concrete Recycling facility that opened on PG&E property in 2019. Former PG&E employees have been accused of accepting bribes from Bay Area Concrete. (Courtesy of Bay Area Concrete Recycling via ProPublica)
Lawsuit reveals new allegations against PG&E contractor accused of fraud

By Scott Morris Bay City News Foundation Utility giant Pacific Gas &… Continue reading

New protected bicycle lanes stretch from the city's Portola District to Bernal Heights. (Courtesy Bay City News)
City leaders celebrate protected bike lanes in city’s Portola, Bernal Heights neighborhoods

San Francisco city leaders on Thursday announced the completion of new protected… Continue reading

A short walk leads to the base of Yosemite Falls, requiring no snow gear except in heavy winter conditions. (Matt Johanson/Special to S.F. Examiner)
Snowy destinations abound in Yosemite winter

Those who journey to the mountains discover grand scenery, solitude .

Most Read