Gainesville City Leaders Debate Implementing Fire Assessment Fees
It's either cut the services, or find a new way to pay for them. That's what Gainesville city leaders say they are facing as they look at possible budget cuts for next year.
On Thursday night, the city took a step toward a solution that Alachua County leaders are looking at; a fire assessment fee.
Fire protection cost Gainesville's Fire Department $10.6 million last year. If this goes according to plan, next year, a percentage of that cost will be paid by the city's property owners, with the fire assessment fee. That takes the place of the current assessment, based on the value of each property.
The amount of that fee depends on structure size, and how hazardous each building is deemed to be.
Restaurants, nightclubs and bowling alleys fall under hazard class three. Churches and doctor's offices fall under hazard class six, and residential homes, banks and business offices fall under hazard class seven.
On Thursday, the city commission voted 6-1 to set the assessment rate at 67% of a property's value. That means that most residential homeowners would pay $257 for the fire assessment fee next year. But then commissioners voted 4-3 to ask city staffers to find out what it would cost the city to exempt non-profit groups.
The city will begin mailing out notices to each property owner at the end of June showing what they'll pay. A public hearing and final vote are still to come.
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