Some residents in unincorporated Pinellas could see double-digit hikes in property tax rates to pay higher costs for fire service.
The increases are driven by a combination of factors, including a 3.4 to 15.1 percent decline in property values depending on the area of Pinellas, and higher costs of providing fire service.
Pinellas County residents who live in cities receive fire protection as part of municipal services paid for by city taxes and other fees.
Many who live in unincorporated Pinellas receive fire protection from independent fire districts, such as Lealman Fire and Rescue, which collects property taxes from those in its district to provide the service.
Others who live in unincorporated Pinellas rely on the county to provide fire protection. The county has done this by creating 12 so-called dependent fire districts. These are areas that the county hires a city or fire district to cover. The county then establishes a property tax rate to cover the costs of providing the service in that area and gives that revenue to the contracting city or district.
On Tuesday, county commissioners are scheduled to set a rate cap for the coming year for each of the 12 districts. A final tax rate will be set at the end of next month.
Seven of the districts say they will spend more on fire service next year than they are spending this year.
But only six — Clearwater, Safety Harbor, Gandy, Largo, High Point and Tierra Verde — say they want to increase the tax rate.
Gandy is operated by St. Petersburg. High Point is divided in two. One part is run by Pinellas Park and the other by Largo. Tierra Verde is run by Lealman.
The increases run from 10.5 percent to 64.3 percent.
Anne Lindberg can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8450.