by BOB WINTER
Hernando Sun Reporter
Originally introduced in 2012, the Fire Assessment method used by the City of Brooksville was based on the readiness of fire services to serve the community. Beginning in November 2018 the City Council hired Bryant Miller Olive (BMO), a law firm specializing in state and local government law and finance, to conduct the research into the most viable Fire Assessment methodology for the City. Additionally, Stantec was hired as a sub-consultant.
Under review were two methods for use as a Fire Assessment, Readiness to Serve, and Calls for Service, also called Demand. The Readiness to Serve method uses a two tier system where the first tier is based on the structural value on the land. The second tier is a flat rate used for undeveloped lots. The Demand method allocates the cost of fire services based on the historic demand of each property class. Those classes being: residential, allocated by number of dwellings; non-residential, allocated by square footage; and vacant, allocated by parcel.
As of the July 15, 2019 City Council meeting, Preliminary Rate Resolution 2019-06 had been accepted with three amendments regarding the amount raised under the different methods. This resolution approved the research reports, as well as set a public hearing to discuss the findings by BMO and Stantec. The hearing was scheduled for August 19th, 2019.
After more than an hour of presentation and discussion, the Readiness method was replaced by the Demand method by City Council vote during the August 19th, 2019 meeting. Concerns from residents and business owners include the additional cost to mobile home residents being too high, and potential for further increases. Other commenters were in favor of the Demand method and suggested that it would better balance the burden of paying for fire services. The motion passed 4-1 with the dissenting vote belonging to Council Member Brayton.
The approximate fee schedule under the new Demand assessment method, as presented by Eric Van Malssen during the Monday meeting, is as follows:
Residential property owners will pay approximately $164.60 per dwelling.
Commercial property owners will pay approximately $0.06 per square foot.
Industrial/Warehouse property owners will pay approximately $0.04 per square foot.
Government/Institutional property owners will pay approximately $0.10 per square foot.
Vacant Lot owners will pay approximately $31.62 per parcel.
Even with the 10% increase in revenue from the 2018-19 fiscal year, this fee schedule provides roughly half of the budget necessary for fire services. This leaves the rest to be allocated from other legal sources, such as the General Fund. Additionally, the Demand method is more commonly used among cities that implement a Fire Assessment.