BROOKSVILLE — The city is considering changing the way residents pay for fire service, moving to a flat fee instead of the current method of paying through property taxes.
The City Council voted unanimously Monday to move ahead with an ordinance calling for the fire rescue district to establish a municipal services benefit unit that would assess all properties, even those now exempted from paying property taxes.
Fire Chief Tim Mossgrove, who presented the report to council, stressed that residents will benefit from a more fair and balanced way of collecting revenue.
"It's value driven and equitable," said Mossgrove, who noted that all residential calls receive a "first assignment" response of three units, no matter if the residence is a two-story house or a mobile home.
The amount of the flat fee is still to be determined, but Mossgrove said most homeowners would benefit because of a lower property tax rate. Under the proposal, he said, the current rate of 6.069 mills could drop as much as 2 mills.
Making the system more equitable, he explained, is a big reason for the council to make the change.
Those property owners who pay little or no property taxes now because their home's value is below the homestead exemption level would have to pay an assessment under the proposal.
"It won't benefit everyone, but it will help a lot of homeowners who are carrying the extra burden," Mossgrove said.
The proposal calls for schools and government buildings to be exempt from the assessment. However, government buildings renting space to private entities would be charged based on the space used by the tenant
The ordinance, if it passes on second reading March 15, probably won't be implemented by the council until at least June, when the county releases 2010-11 tax rolls. After that, any assessments would become part of the budgetary process and be subject to public review.
Logan Neill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 848-1435.