San Mateo

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Measure Q - Special Tax for Extended Police and Structural Fire Protection Services

According to our analysis, Measure Q’s tax renewal funds emergency services for a region of San Mateo County with increased fire risk.

About the Race

This special election is asking voters whether to extend an existing $65 tax that applies to residents of San Mateo County Service Area 1 (CSA 1), which includes Unincorporated San Mateo Highlands, Baywood Park, and Baywood Plaza for an additional four years. The tax is used to pay for enhanced fire department services for the area, which includes a 24/7 fire engine located at Fire Station #17, located on Paul Scannell Drive. CalFire staffs the engine with a minimum of three firefighters, at least one of which is a Paramedic. The tax also funds patrol service of CSA 1 by a Deputy Sheriff, 7 days a week, 18 hours a day.

According to President of the Highlands Community Association Nicolas Liesje, this measure is being presented to voters in a special election because San Mateo County staff omitted this measure from the March 2020 ballot. It is unclear why this omission was made.

About the Decision

Measure Q renews the $65 tax on residents of CSA 1 for four additional years. A YES vote on Measure Q does not change the levels of taxation or services available to CSA 1. A NO vote on Measure Q will mean that CSA 1 will no longer have enhanced fire department and police services, and will also not pay the $65 tax, which is collected alongside local property taxes. Measure Q requires a 2/3 vote to pass.

About the Service Area

CSA 1 was established in 1955 to provide enhanced fire service for the San Mateo Highlands, Baywood Park, Baywood Plaza, San Mateo Oaks, Polhemus Heights, Hillside Garden and other neighborhoods in the unincorporated area to the east and west of Polhemus Road. The current population of CSA 1 is estimated at 3,052. The additional police services were added to the tax in 1966. CSA 1 does not administer any other special services.

About the Official Arguments

An argument in favor of and an argument against a measure were selected for publication in the Sample Ballot & Official Voter lnformation Pamphlet. The primary argument in favor of Measure Q was filed by President of the Highlands Community Association Nicolas Liesje. He describes the fire and police services funded by the tax as “local emergency services” and points out that it is an extension of an already existing tax that was first passed in 1955. The primary argument against Measure Q was filed by Mark Hinkle, President of the Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association and Jack Hickey, member of the Libertarian Party of San Mateo. They characterize it as a waste of taxpayers’ money. They also point out the costs of the special election itself as wasteful.

Based on the historical context of how this tax was first proposed and passed, it appears that the police services are in support of the fire emergency response services. The renewal of the police services funded by this tax appear to support emergency response efforts for CSA 1 only, and therefore seems unlikely to significantly impact police funding overall in San Mateo County.

How to Vote in this Election

The June 23 election encompasses only County Service Area 1 of San Mateo County and is being administered by San Mateo County’s Registration & Elections Division. To be counted, completed ballots must be received no later than 8 p.m. on Election Day, or be postmarked on or before Election Day and received no later than three days after Election Day. Voters will be able to cast their ballot via mail, or vote in person on paper or the electronic voting machine at a Vote Center. Information about this election can be found at

Every registered voter in San Mateo County will be mailed a ballot beginning 29 days before Election Day. Voters will have the following options for returning their ballot:

  • Vote in person at the one Vote Center that will be open for this election, located at 40 Tower Road, San Mateo, CA 94402
  • Mail their ballot (postage is pre-paid) so that it is postmarked by Election Day, July 21, 2020
  • Drop their ballot off at marked drop off boxes inside and outside 40 Tower Road, San Mateo, CA 94402.

Accessible Voting: Voters with disabilities can vote privately and independently by accessing and marking a ballot in a screen-readable format from any computer. Ballots must be printed out and returned to the Registration & Elections Division. Marked ballots cannot be emailed or faxed. The service may be accessed anytime, day or night during an election period by going online to and entering your information to find a link to your ballot; or emailing or calling 650.312.5222 to have a link to your ballot emailed to you.

Register to Vote: To be eligible to vote in this election, your Voter Registration Form must be submitted online by midnight no later than 15 days before June 23rd. If you are mailing a Voter Registration Form, it must be postmarked no later than 15 days before June 23rd and received by the San Mateo County Registration & Elections Division by the close of the polls on June 23rd, Election Day.

After the June 8th deadline, you can still register and vote under Conditional Voter Registration (CVR), also known as Same Day Voter Registration. Contact your county elections office to learn more about CVR.

Risk-Limiting Audit: The San Mateo County Registration & Elections Division will be conducting a pilot risk-limiting audit for the June 23, 2020 County Service Area No. 1 Special Mail Ballot Election. More information about the audit is available here.

San Mateo County Registration & Elections Website: