In case the so-called fire readiness implodes in September, City Council voted Thursday to hike the millage rate to plug a $10 million shortfall.
Council members voted 7-0 to increase the millage from 5.9125 to 6.7742, which will generate about $10 million.
They had to do this now to meet an Aug. 4 deadline so the higher millage rate could be put on tax bills later this year. The council can decide to lower it later if the fire fee is adopted, or they could decide to employ a mix of both.
Acknowledging residents' negative feedback about the fire fee, council member Karl Nurse asked the city attorney to look into the financial ramifications of tweaking the fee, including removing the $10 million cap that limits how much wealthy landowners would pay, lowering the flat fee from $75 to $50 and exempting nonprofits.
Right now, plans call for St. Petersburg property owners to be charged a flat fee of $75 for each lot and 23 cents per $1,000 of a lot's appraised structural value.
Residents can attend public hearings Sept. 13 and 27. Both start a 6 p.m. in council chambers.
Mark Puente can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8459. Follow him at Twitter at twitter.com/markpuente.