BROOKSVILLE — City Council members exploring alternative ways of getting Brooksville residents and businesses to pay their fair share toward fire services next year got a clearer picture of how that might happen at a budget workshop Tuesday.
Fire Chief Tim Mossgrove, who has been working the past several months on the city's plan to establish a municipal services benefit unit, said fire fees could significantly reduce taxes while providing a fair method of ensuring everyone pays for the service.
Mossgrove presented two proposals to the council — one that would raise $1.2 million from a full assessment of all eligible properties, and a 50 percent assessment that would raise about $700,000 for the city — with the hope of offering a broader view of revenue potential.
According to 2009 tax statistics, homeowners would pay a base rate of $143.52 a year, or $11.96 a month, regardless of the size of their home to fully fund fire service. Coupled with a base fee of $8.99, the total cost would be $152.51 per home.
However, most council members said that a full assessment the first year might prove risky in that projections could fall short of meeting the fire department's estimated $1.7 million budget.
"I'd prefer to see it at 50 percent the first year so we can determine whether the projections are right," Council member Joe Bernardini said. "After that, we can give it another look."
As it stands, many of the city's low-value homes are tax-exempt. So are government buildings and churches. Under a 50 percent assessment, non-exempt government buildings would pay 3.8 cents per square foot. Churches would be assessed 2.5 cents per square foot. And each residence would pay a $76 yearly assessment.
City officials said that not funding fire protection through the general fund would allow them to pass some savings back to taxpayers by lowering the mill levy about 4 mills — something that also could help attract businesses to the area.
Bernardini said that at the very least, a fire assessment would enable potential businesses a way of comparing rates with those of the county.
"It would be an apples-to-apples comparison," he said. "It could make us look good up against what the county would charge them."
The council is expected to vote on whether to implement fire assessments when it meets on Monday.
Logan Neill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1435.