Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Citizen Benefit Statement Reinforces Value of City Government and Services

Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Citizen Benefit Statement Reinforces Value of City Government and Services

Article excerpt

One of the challenges facing a city is how to inform the public how much revenue their house generates to the city and how much it costs to provide basic property related services. This is particularly difficult in California where the property tax is set on a statewide basis and billed as a lump sum by the county This year the city of San Mateo, Calif. (population 94,000), decided to take an innovative approach to this issue.

In October, every owner-occupied single family parcel received a personalized and customized "City Benefit Statement." This statement was generated from the property tax rolls used by San Mateo County and its mailing coincided with the distribution of property tax bills by the county.

The Benefits Statement specifically identifies the owner's property, how much property tax is paid in total, and how much of the total property tax comes to the city of San Mateo.

Also included in the Benefits Statement is an analysis of the average cost per parcel to provide basic property related services--such as police, fire, library, parks, and public works. This cost is broken down to show the percentage of the city's budget going to each service. Additionally, the property tax generated from the specific parcel is broken out in the same proportion as the funding of city services.

In doing this analysis, some very interesting statistics were revealed and shared with the residents. While the average cost to provide general services to a city parcel is $1,554, the median amount of residential property tax which the city receives is $208. …

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