Property owners in some portions of unincorporated Pinellas could see their tax rates for fire protection drop by about a third. It's a result of a county decision to have St. Petersburg provide service to the eastern portion of the High Point area.
Under the deal, the county will be paying St. Petersburg a flat $900,000 next year for first response fire and emergency medical service coverage in the area. Pinellas Park had been providing first response fire and EMS coverage to eastern High Point for about $1.5 million annually.
Although the agreement with St. Petersburg only applies to the eastern portion and Largo is expected to continue providing protection to the western side, the county has spread the savings throughout the area.
High Point is located roughly between Pinellas Park and Largo. The eastern portion of High Point area is where Feather Sound, the Pinellas County Jail and the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Airport are located.
Under the agreement, the High Point fire property tax rate is expected to drop 36 percent from about $4.19 per thousand dollars of assessed, taxable value to about $2.67 per thousand dollars of assessed, taxable value. That means the owner of a $150,000 home with a homestead exemption of $50,000 paid about $419 this year in fire protection taxes and will likely pay about $267 for the 2013-14 fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. The rates will not become final until County Commission approval in September.
Most fire protection in Pinellas is provided by 18 fire departments. Fourteen of those are city-run and paid for through municipal property taxes. The other four are so-called independent districts because they have the power to levy taxes or fees to pay for fire coverage in their areas.
That leaves 12 areas of unincorporated Pinellas that look to the county for fire protection. The county has no fire department, so it contracts with city departments to provide coverage to those areas. The county then sets a property tax rate for each area to pay for the contract. Those are known as dependent districts.
Most dependent districts are expected to see no change in their property tax rate for fire protection in the coming year. Property owners in two areas, near Pinellas Park and Safety Harbor, are expected to see increases.
Anne Lindberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8450.