San Rafael, CA – A parcel tax measure to create funding for the new Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority will appear on Marin County voter ballots for the March 3, 2020, primary election.
With fire season almost a year-round reality in Marin County, the desire for more collaboration and coordination of wildfire prevention efforts led to the creation of the Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority this fall. A funding measure will go before the voters in March 2020.
The Marin County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted November 19 to adopt a resolution to authorize the ballot item and adopt an ordinance to levy the tax for 10 years.
Local fire professionals have collaborated with the County and Marin’s cities and towns the past few years to create the new authority. The new agency’s singular focus is to significantly enhance and coordinate local wildfire prevention education and preparedness efforts.
If approved by voters, the parcel tax is expected to raise approximately $19.3 million per year solely for wildfire prevention programs in Marin. The funding would be protected from being taken away by the state and be subject to independent oversight and audits.
The Board of Supervisors first expressed support for the Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority during its August 13 meeting, then took formal actions to create the agency on September 24. On October 29, the Board adopted revisions to the joint powers agreement to be consistent with the other 16 agencies that have agreed to join. Including the County of Marin, the 17 fire-responsible agencies represent more than 98 percent of the land and more than 96 percent of the residents of Marin. The members are:
- Southern Marin Fire Protection District
- Novato Fire Protection District
- Stinson Beach Fire Protection District
- Sleepy Hollow Fire Protection District
- Kentfield Fire Protection District
- Bolinas Fire Protection District
- Marinwood Community Services District
- Muir Beach Community Services District
- Inverness Public Utility District
- Town of Fairfax
- Town of San Anselmo
- Town of Ross
- Town of Corte Madera
- City of Larkspur
- City of San Rafael
- City of Mill Valley
- County of Marin
The annual parcel tax will be up to 10 cents per square foot for improved commercial and residential parcels, translating to $180 for a typical 1,800-square-foot home. The rate will be $75 per unit for multifamily residential (three or more) units and $25/$100/$150 per parcel for unimproved parcels based on acreage.
Sixty percent of tax measure funds would go toward core functions of wildfire protection such as wildfire evacuation system improvements, vegetation management, grants, and public education. Twenty percent would go toward annual defensible space and home hardening evaluations. The remaining 20% would go toward local-specific wildfire prevention efforts.
The new County ordinance limits the tax funding to 10 years, includes a low-income exemption for property owners 65 and older and an exemption for churches, nonprofits and local governments. A Citizens' Oversight Committee will be created to evaluate the authority program’s consistency with the tax measure.
Devastating and fatal wildfires similar to the ones that have ravaged Sonoma, Napa, and Lake counties and the Butte County town of Paradise over the past few years prompted Marin fire officials to work on creation of the new authority. Many Marin neighborhoods are adjacent to and intermixed with wildlands because of a strong desire to live close to nature.
In addition to defensible space education, the Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority would help residents understand more about disaster preparedness, reducing combustible vegetation, making homes fire resistant, and planning for an organized emergency evacuation.