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San Marino Approves Safety Tax by Over 73%

November 06, 1986|MARY BARBER | Times Staff Writer

SAN MARINO — Voters on Tuesday solidly approved a special tax for police, fire and paramedic services for four more years, ending civic leaders' fears that the levy might meet the same fate as two unsuccessful school tax proposals in the past year.

Measure EE, which will finance more than half of San Marino's public safety budget until 1991, was favored by 4,558 voters and opposed by 1,628. The 73.7% approval was well over the two-thirds majority required for special tax proposals.

Mayor Rosemary Simmons said San Marino's high voter turnout--70% of the 8,932 registered voters--may be the reason Measure EE succeeded. Turnout countywide was 58%.

"When we read that a low voter turnout was expected, we quickly put together a phone bank," Simmons said. Another reason behind its success may be that "a major point for everyone is knowing that you can get response to an emergency call in less than four minutes," she said.

'Renewed Heart' for Schools

A school tax proposal last November and a similar measure last June narrowly missed two-thirds approval despite massive campaigning.

"This should give school people renewed heart," said Mary Snaer, president of the San Marino School Board. "The issues were a little different, and the reasons people supported the city tax were different, but I think this election clearly indicates a united community now."

Snaer said school district fiscal planners may recommend another attempt at a school tax but have not done so yet "because we're a little battle-scarred." All of the tax measures had the support of every major civic leader and organization and were opposed by the same two anti-tax crusaders, who claimed that San Marino does not need services that they termed "unnecessarily costly."

Ben Austin, who sent newsletters to every San Marino home urging defeat of the special taxes, said of Tuesday's election, "The people had complete information, and they made a clear-cut decision. . . . We fought hard to save money, but I can live with this. I feel sorry for people on fixed salaries who can't afford this."

$1.5 Million a Year

Kevin Forbes, who also mailed an anti-tax newsletter to voters, said he will try to "make every attempt to keep assessment charges, high salaries, pensions and spending minimal" in San Marino.

The new tax combines two levies that were approved by about 78% of San Marino voters in 1983, one for police and fire service and the other for paramedics.

It will collect about $1.5 million a year in taxes that range from $218 annually for the smallest properties to $594 for the largest. Commercial and unimproved properties have separate tax structures.

Upheld in Court

The present tax was challenged as a violation of Proposition 13 and after a long court battle was upheld by the California Supreme Court this summer.

Bernard LeSage, who led a large committee of proponents, said $14,000 in campaign donations was spent on letters and brochures. Citizens for San Marino, organized for Tuesday's election, conducted a low-key campaign in the belief that "people would support the tax if given the facts," LeSage said.

Suzanne Crowell, who worked for passage of the school tax last November and has since been elected to the City Council, said the council "will soon be addressing ways to get additional money without having to go to the people for more. We now have four years to do this."

Crowell said a heavy negative vote in November and June school tax elections from 1,100 county voters who do not live in the city may have helped defeat those measures. Those voters, eligible to vote on the school taxes because their children attend school in the city, could not vote Tuesday.

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