Local News

AP discusses various fire assessment options

AVON PARK - Discussion on changing to a different way of setting the fire assessment rates opened the issue to numerous opinions, but no decision because the city council wants to hear from the citizens.

At Monday's city council meeting, former councilman George Hall noted that the fire assessment was implemented at a time when the city needed more revenue, but could not raise the property taxes.

He recommended keeping the current rate structure, but reducing the level of the rate. Under the proposed rate methodology his fire assessment will be higher, Hall said. "You are going to be hearing from me."

Councilman Garrett Anderson said it would be "less abrasive" to keep the current assessment system.

Mayor Sharon Schuler said she liked the proposal "a lot less" than the current assessment methodology.

Deputy Mayor Brenda Giles said she liked the proposed method, but wanted to hear from the citizens.

City Manager Julian Deleon opened the issue explaining the current and proposed fire assessment rate plans.

With the current methodology, some pay a high fire assessment such as nursing homes, church camps and places of worship, Deleon said. Also, large apartment complexes pay a large assessment because they are paying the residential rate of $165 per unit.

By changing to an "availability for service methodology," everybody pays a flat fee per lot plus a small ad valorem based on the improvement values to the lot, he said.

The recommended flat fee per lot/tax parcel is $40. In addition to the flat fee, residents and businesses would pay $1.68 per $1,000 in improved property value.

Deleon noted that this rate structure would raise about $654,738, which is about $275,000 savings compared to $930,000 that is currently being collected. The difference would be made up with contingency or un-budgeted dollars the city is currently collecting.

Deleon said the proposed plan would lead to a savings for everyone who is currently paying a fire assessment. Later he said Hall's fire assessment would not be higher under the proposed plan.

Deleon noted that with the city's biggest pending annexation, Crystal Lake Club, the overall fire assessment would be $90,000 annually under the current methodology, but only $13,480 with the proposed plan.

The fire assessment for DevTech, a local business, would drop from $415 to $238, he noted.

Schuler asked city staff for a couple of proposals that would lower the fire assessments.

Council will continue discussion on the issue at its next meeting, which will be on Dec. 9.