Tamarac fire fee may rise to $113

By Kevin Smith
Staff Writer
Posted June 20 2003

Tamarac · The City Commission has given preliminary approval to an increase in the city's fire assessment.

The proposed hike will be statistically substantial -- 88 percent. But city officials say increasing the annual fee from $60 to $113 isn't excessive and will bring the city in line with the assessments in other nearby communities.

The $60 residential assessment was "low compared to other cities, there's no question about it, but the service we offer is first class," said Tamarac City Manager Jeffrey Miller, who noted the Broward County Fire Chief's Association recently selected a Tamarac firefighter as its Paramedic of the Year for the third consecutive year.

The boost will support the city's new ambulance and the new fire station, Miller said, as well as rising salary and pension costs.

The increase also will reduce the fire-rescue budget's reliance on the city's general fund, which has compensated for fire-rescue budget shortfalls in recent years, according to budget officer Chris Sammartino.

"The fire assessment is one way to fund the fire-rescue department; the general fund is another way," he said. "The more we can recover via the fire assessment, the less pressure on the general fund."

Having the fire-rescue budget less dependent on the general fund would allow the city greater financial flexibility for other projects, Sammartino said. After hearing a presentation on the issue last month, city commissioners seemed to agree.

"If we don't do this, we're going to slip back into the general fund," Commissioner Marc Sultanof warned.

Commissioner Karen Roberts, while recognizing the need for the increased assessment, suggested the hike be phased in over two years.

"Make it a two-step jump instead of a one-step jump," Roberts said. "Give [residents] some time to get used to it."

Mayor Joe Schreiber, however, said increases linked to the fire department were generally well-received.

"In the eyes of the public, the fire department is the greatest. These guys save lives," Schreiber said.

"You'll get as much criticism for raising it to $113 as you will raising it to $90," Schreiber said. "You might as well take it all now."

The commission asked city staffers to continue preparing the city's 2004 budget with the $113 fire assessment. The commission will begin budget workshops in July, with public hearings set for September. Tax bills with the fire assessment should arrive in mailboxes in November, Miller said.

Kevin Smith can be reached at [email protected] or 954-572-2009.

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