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St. john's County Looks at Tax Increase

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  • St. john's County Looks at Tax Increase

    St. Augustine.com

    Fire Rescue seeks tax increase for services

    By Michael Reed
    Staff Writer

    To pay for firefighting services in a fast-growing area, the St. Johns Board of County Commissioners decided Tuesday to consider raising taxes.

    The Fire Rescue Department has requested a millage rate of 1.18, which means property owners would pay $1.18 per $1,000 of their assessed value. The current rate is 0.675 mills.

    The increase would mean a property owner with a $100,000 house and a $25,000 homestead exemption would pay $88.50 a year, which is $37.88 more than what is paid now.

    The county is transitioning from a volunteer to a full-time force of firefighters, said County Administrator Ben Adams. The area needs a reliable, professional fire service, he said.

    "It's where we need to go," he said.

    But by county ordinance, the fire district millage rate is capped at 0.75. The County Commission will have to raise the cap to 1.2 mills in order to consider the Fire Rescue Department's budget request, said Joe Vonasek, director of the county's office of management and budget.

    "We're obligated to present a balanced budget," Vonasek said.

    The balanced budget is scheduled to be presented July 8.

    The board will discuss the ordinance July 1, and the proposed changes would merely allow the commissioners to raise the tax. If they decide to increase the tax, they would do so after budget hearings later this summer.

    The fire department's proposed budget for next year is $14.1 million. The budget is $9.5 million this year.

    Funds have been earmarked to pay for the increase in staffing, but the department needs money for more vehicles and equipment, Adams said.

    The millage increase would be a way to pay for that.

    "It's a plan to fix it, and it's not going to be cheaper by any means," Adams said.

    Fire Chief Bobby Hall presented county administration officials with his proposed budget in May. The major funding areas included adding 29 new positions, building a new fire station at State Road 16 and Interstate 95 and replacing and adding equipment for rescue.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
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    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

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