LEALMAN — Property owners here will not see their tax rates go up to pay for fire service in the coming year but it's unclear where the fire department will get the money to pay for increased costs.
Members of the Lealman Fire Commission unanimously agreed Monday to hold the tax rate for 2010-11 steady at $4.48 per $1,000 of assessed, taxable property value. That means, for a $150,000 home with a $50,000 homestead exemption, fire taxes for the coming fiscal year would be $448, exactly what they are this year.
But Monday's decision is not the board's final say on property taxes. The vote was merely to establish an upper limit on the tax rate for the coming year. The board could leave it there or decrease it by the time the final vote is cast in late September.
Pinellas Park has also set its upper limit on the property tax rate for the coming fiscal year. That will be about $5.11 per $1,000 of assessed, taxable property value, which is about 11.6 percent higher than the current rate of $4.58 per $1,000 of assessed, taxable property value. For a $150,000 home with a $50,000 homestead exemption, the property taxes would be $511, which is about $53 more than the current year.
Pinellas Park council members could reduce that number before a final vote on the $50 million operating budget in September.
Kenneth City was still working Tuesday to determine what cap to put on its tax rate for the coming fiscal year.
The Lealman fire board's decision to hold the tax rate down comes at a time when the district is facing a 13.4 percent decrease in property values, mandatory 3 percent raises under the department's union contract and increased pension contributions.
Just two weeks ago, fire Chief Rick Graham said he was concerned the tax rate might have to jump a dramatic 22.7 percent to make up a possible shortfall.
It's not clear how much has changed since then, but Graham said talks have started with the union about possible adjustments to salaries and/or benefits that could help hold down costs. Other cost savers could include cuts to administrative perks, dipping into savings and even layoffs if necessary.