Sunday, November 19, 2017
News Roundup

Curious about two-tiered fire fees? Take a peek

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BROOKSVILLE — Although still months from implementation, Brooksville's trek toward charging a special fire assessment has begun to take shape.

Owners interested in learning how their property might be affected can now go to the city's website and calculate what their proposed assessment would be. The site, which is linked to data provided by the Hernando County Property Appraiser's Office, provides a detailed read-out of every parcel within the city.

Last week, the Brooksville City Council approved a measure that, if ultimately adopted, would fund $600,000 of the city's fire services next year with a two-tiered methodology, based on a flat rate for each parcel plus an assessment based on its improvements.

Under the plan, property owners would pay a flat fee of $106, plus $0.78 per $1,000 of improvements. That means a property 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 move to collect a special fire assessment dates back two years, when council members began looking into ways to pay for fire service more equitably, in the hope of lowering property taxes. The plan, which revolved around charging the fees based on square footage and calls for service, never materialized after business owners grumbled that they would essentially be taxed twice because their tax dollars already were paying for fire protection.

Another attempt to levy the fees last year got little traction until council members voted to pay $25,000 to the Tallahassee law firm of Bryant Miller and Olive to develop an assessment formula similar to the ones that some municipalities use to charge for stormwater management.

With the current proposal, council members have continued to express hope that they can lower the city's property tax rate, but no decision has been made about the size of any reduction.

A lot still has to happen before the city can start collecting the fire fee for the 2012-13 budget year, which begins Oct. 1.

The public will be allowed its say on the proposal prior to the first reading of the resolution at the City Council meeting at 7 p.m. Monday. On June 18, the ordinance will be presented for a second reading.

If it is adopted by the council, the measure must go through a validation process in Circuit Court. Once validated, the city would then notify the Property Appraiser's Office to include the fee as part of residents' Truth in Millage notices.

Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or [email protected]

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