BROOKSVILLE — By a 4-1 vote, the Brooksville City Council on Monday night gave initial approval to an ordinance that would establish fire assessments for city property owners.
The measure, if ultimately passed, would give the council authority to approve an annual resolution requiring all property owners in the city to contribute toward fire protection.
Under a plan that is due to be discussed at a public hearing June 18, property owners would pay a flat fee of $106, plus $0.78 per $1,000 of improvements. That means a parcel with $100,000 worth of improvements would be assessed $78 for its improved value, and a $106 flat fee, for a total of $184.
The council is looking to raise about $600,000 with the fees to pay for fire service.
The council's action drew mild fire from Brooksville lawyer Joe Mason, who felt that the flat "readiness to serve" fee on owners of vacant properties would be unfair and chase away businesses looking to relocate to Brooksville.
"Someone with a lot worth a few thousand dollars would be getting in effect a millage increase," Mason said.
Council member Joe Bernardini, who voted against the measure, agreed, saying that a flat $106 assessment on all property, regardless of its improvements, puts too much burden on low-income residents.
"I think it's too much," Bernardini said. "I think we need to look at it some more between now and the second reading and see if there isn't a way to find something more equitable."
Council members in the past have discussed offsetting fire fees with a reduction in the city's property tax rate. However, any potential reduction in the tax rate was not addressed during Monday night's meeting.
The final reading of the ordinance will be at 7 p.m. June 18.
In other council action, the council approved two charter amendment questions that will go before voters Nov. 6.
The first amendment would allow council members to serve three consecutive four-year terms, rather than two. The second would allow the forfeiture of office by any council member who moves outside the city limits.
Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or firstname.lastname@example.org.