Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hernando fire rescue funding becomes more complex with Spring Hill merger

BROOKSVILLE — Figuring out how to finance the newly merged operations of Hernando County's two major fire-rescue operations will likely take longer than originally anticipated.

Based on a recommendation by county public safety director Mike Nickerson, county commissioners chose Tuesday to begin working toward a new municipal service benefit unit to at least partially fund fire and rescue operations in the merger of the defunct Spring Hill Fire Rescue District with the county's fire-rescue service.

The measure would buy time while the county negotiates a new contract with firefighters next year and works toward establishing a more finely tuned funding methodology based on real budget projections and input from residents.

Creation of an MSBU would not lock the county into a particular funding methodology because commissioners would have the option of not voting to fund it.

In his presentation before the commission, Nickerson said that although housing values in the county continue to fall — reducing the amount of revenue property taxes generate — the cost of providing fire and rescue services has risen steadily. Although merging the two departments has provided some cost savings, the lack of adequate funding has hampered the county's ability to adequately maintain an experienced staff.

Nickerson outlined an array of possible funding scenarios based on rough revenue projections and future personnel needs. But commissioners pretty much agreed that none of the methodologies spread the responsibility of paying equitably for fire protection.

"The chart has a lot of numbers," Chairman Wayne Dukes told Nickerson. "But the bottom line is getting a fire truck to someone's home and everybody having an equal share of the pie."

Dissolved by the Florida Legislature earlier this year after Spring Hill voters twice failed to give their former independent district its own taxing authority, Spring Hill's fire and rescue operations are currently funded through a municipal service taxing unit that charges homeowners a tax rate of 2.5 mills per $1,000 of assessed property value. Property owners in the county are currently charged an annual flat fee of $194.87 for services.

The tax on property owners in the Spring Hill Fire Rescue district expires after the 2012-13 budget year.

Because of falling home values, Nickerson said, Spring Hill property owners would need to pay a tax rate of 3.62 mills next year in order to maintain current service levels. But the MSBU has a cap of 2.5 mills.

Under a funding methodology supported by fire officials, future service would be paid for by a combination of a property tax for fire service and a separate fixed fee for emergency medical services. While some homeowners would see a decrease in what they now pay, others, including owners or property that is currently exempt from taxes, would begin paying at least something for their service through the fee.

Under a revised time line, Nickerson said he hopes to have a methodology based on the temporary MSBU ready to present to commissioners in November or early December.

Public hearings will follow.

Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or

Hernando fire rescue funding becomes more complex with Spring Hill merger 08/07/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 7, 2012 8:23pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Obama's secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin's election assault


    WASHINGTON — Early last August, an envelope with extraordinary handling restrictions arrived at the White House. Sent by courier from the CIA, it carried "eyes only" instructions that its contents be shown to just four people: President Barack Obama and three senior aides.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Barack Obama shake hands at the COP21 UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris, France, Monday, Nov. 30, 2015. [Mikhail Klimentyev | Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP]
  2. GOP's challenge: Finding votes for Senate health care bill (w/video)


    WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has finally unwrapped his plan for dismantling President Barack Obama's health care law. Now comes his next challenge — persuading enough Republicans to back the measure and avert a defeat that could be shattering for President Donald Trump and the GOP.

    Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks to reporters at the Capitol after Republicans released their long-awaited bill to scuttle much of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 22, 2017. He is one of four GOP senators to say they are opposed it but are open to negotiations, which could put the measure in immediate jeopardy. [Associated Press]
  3. Trigaux: Halfway through 2017, a closer look at six drivers of the Tampa Bay economy


    We're nearly halfway through 2017 already, a perfect time to step back from the daily grind of business and ask: How's Tampa Bay's economy doing?

    Is there one theme or idea that captures the Tampa Bay brand? Not really but here's one possibility. The fun-loving annual Gasparilla "Invasion" of Tampa is captured in this photo of 
The Jose Gasparilla loaded with pirates of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla on its way this past January to the Tampa Convention Center. In the future a vibrant downtown Tampa or St. Petersburg may be the better theme. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  4. Harmeling first woman to receive lifetime honor at Sneaker Soiree in Tampa

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — For the last quarter-century, she has combined passion and meticulousness to keep the Gasparilla Distance Classic humming and evolving. Indefatigable and detailed, Susan Harmeling braces for every race-weekend contingency.

    Susan Harmeling gives a speech after accepting an award  during the annual Sneaker Soiree, at TPepin's Hospitality Centre, Thursday, June 22, 2017.
  5. Manslaughter charges eyed in deadly London fire sparked by refrigerator


    LONDON — Manslaughter charges are among the offenses under consideration in the devastating Grenfell Tower blaze that killed 79 people, London police said Friday.

    A view of part of the Burnham residential tower on the Chalcots Estate showing the bottom section of the building after cladding was removed, in the borough of Camden, north London, Thursday, June 22, 2017. Tests so far have found that at least three high-rise apartment buildings in the U.K. have flammable external panels like the ones believed to have contributed to a fire that killed 79 people in London, Britain's government said Thursday. The local council in Camden, a borough of London, removed cladding from one of its buildings for further testing after tests they commissioned showed some of their panels were of the flammable variety "and not the ones they ordered." It was unclear whether the Camden example was one of the three mentioned by the government. [Associated Press]