Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

St. Petersburg property owners may face monthly $5 fee for fire service

ST. PETERSBURG — Almost every property owner in the city — including churches and nonprofits — might be paying a $5 monthly fee to help cover fire service by next year.

The City Council is strongly considering creating a fire district to close a $10.5 million deficit in the city's public safety budget, which includes police and fire.

"It's something we need to look at," said council Chairwoman Leslie Curran. "This is fair. It also addresses all the absentee landlords. I'd support looking at it."

The council voted Thursday to hold a May 27 workshop to discuss the fee, which would amount to about $60 a year for property owners. In the meantime, the city staff will research the legal ramifications and its use in other jurisdictions.

The drop in property values, which subsidize police and fire, has forced city officials to scramble for new solutions. Their budgets combined cost the city about $115 million. But tax revenues only reach about $80 million. Tim Finch, the city's budget director, said he doesn't expect a recovery any time soon, either.

"It's not a pretty picture," Finch said.

Yet it's not the police and fire departments that are facing the cuts. Mayor Bill Foster said he doesn't propose major cuts for either one. So the fee, if approved, would help save other departments, such as parks and recreation, from making deeper cuts to subsidize public safety, fire Chief James Large said.

City Attorney John Wolfe said a fee of $5 could raise more than $5 million to $6 million a year for the fire department. He said such a fee is legally defensible because it treats each property the same. So a Walmart would pay the same as a house, a church the same as a mall. He said other government buildings, such as schools and courthouses, would likely be exempt.

But passing it might be a challenge. It was proposed back in the late 1990s, only to be dropped.

"It was politically unpalatable back then," Large said. "I can't imagine it being more palatable today."

Yet given the current economic environment, council members were open to it.

"It's a selection of which bad choices do we want," said Karl Nurse. "You have to consider all the choices."

Michael Van Sickler can be reached at

St. Petersburg property owners may face monthly $5 fee for fire service 05/13/10 [Last modified: Thursday, May 13, 2010 8:34pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Observations from a liberal, gay, Latino, feminist Florida House freshman


    State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando,  rocked the Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus dinner at Tallahassee's Hotel Duval Satursday night with his unabashedly liberal and passionate take on the myriad issues he said are key to LGBTQ Floridians. Among them: Access to guns, Reproductive rights, home …

    Carlos G. Smith
  2. Delta Sigma Theta honors outgoing national president

    Human Interest

    During her four years as national president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Paulette Walker said she always focused on the comma between "Sorority" and "Inc."

    Paulette Walker, the former director of undergraduate programs and internship in the College of Education at the University of South Florida, will be honored on Saturday for her leadership in the Delta Sigma Theta sorority.
  3. 10 sailors missing, 5 hurt in collision of USS John S. McCain

    SEOUL —Ten U.S. Navy sailors are missing and five have been injured after the USS John S. McCain destroyer collided with an oil tanker near Singapore early Monday morning.

    In this Jan. 22, 2017, photo provided by U.S. Navy, the USS John S. McCain patrols in the South China Sea while supporting security efforts in the region. The guided-missile destroyer collided with a merchant ship on Monday, Aug. 21, in waters east of Singapore and the Straits of Malacca. Ten sailors were missing, and five were injured, the Navy said. [James Vazquez/U.S. Navy via AP]
  4. Pasco County Fire Rescue fighting a two-alarm fire started by an explosion


    Two houses are on fire and one victim has been critically burned and taken to a trauma center following an explosion at a home at 8652 Velvet Dr, in Port Richey.

  5. Rays see the Blake Snell they've been waiting for in win over Mariners

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — It was a one-run game Sunday when the Mariners' Robinson Cano singled with one out in the seventh inning, bringing the dangerous Nelson Cruz to the plate.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) throwing in the third inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017.