At tonight’s Fort Walton Beach City Council meeting, the City Council will hold a public hearing to adopt the assessment rates via resolution. The public hearing is part of the Council’s regularly-scheduled meeting and will take place in the Council Chambers located at 107 Miracle Strip Parkway SW.
What we know: Fire Services Assessment funds can only be utilized for fire protection programs and services. Per the City, the assessment will replace approximately $2.5M in General Fund dollars, allowing those funds to be used for other Public Safety enhancements. The City would like some of the enhancements to include:
- Addition of six firefighting positions in the Fort Walton Beach Fire Department (two personnel added to each of the three shifts).
- Upgrade of the current Rescue 6 Medical Unit to an Engine Company (Fire Engine purchased with Half-Cent Surtax revenues).
- Restoration of the Deputy Fire Chief position.
- Addition of three police officers to create a new law enforcement zone in the Kenwood neighborhood.
- Improvements to the City’s emergency management capabilities.
- Investment in the wages and benefits for all current and potential City employees.
The Utility Billing Method of collection is being recommended for the Assessment in lieu of placing the Assessment on the annual property tax bill. However, this is making a lot of people really mad (link).
Here’s the original recommended fee breakdown:
- $160.00 per year per equivalent residential unit for Residential Property
- $0.17 per square foot per year for Commercial Property
- $0.04 per square foot per year for Industrial/Warehouse Property
- $0.37 per square foot per year for Institutional Property
According to City documents, the City currently maintains 30% of expenditures in the General Fund. As of September 30, 2019, the City had approximately $2.3M over and above what is required to be maintained by this Policy.
It can be reduced: The funding needed from the Fire Services Assessment in the first two years can by reduced to $1.2M per year with the following:
- Utilizing General Fund Unassigned Fund Balance for FY 2019-20 and FY 2020-21 in the amount of $860,092 per year.
- Receiving the award of the SAFER Grant in the amount of $362,430 per year in Year 1 and Year 2, and $169,134 in Year 3.
- Delaying the hire of the six new firefighters until February 2020.
So, here is the resolution and new effective start date the council will vote on tonight
The recommended Fire Services Assessment Rates, effective January 1, 2020, will be:
- $80.00 per year per equivalent residential unit for Residential Property
- $0.07 per square foot per year for Commercial Property
- $0.02 per square foot per year for Industrial/Warehouse Property
- $0.00 per square foot per year for Institutional Property
If approved by City Council, Fire Service Assessment collections would begin January 1, 2020 and would be included on the corresponding utility bill for the month.