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More Budget Woes--St.Lucie County Chief Urges Board to Keep Budget

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  • More Budget Woes--St.Lucie County Chief Urges Board to Keep Budget

    St. Lucie fire chief urges board not to cut budget

    By Jim Reeder, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

    Thursday, September 4, 2003

    FORT PIERCE -- St. Lucie County Fire Chief Jay Sizemore urged fire board members not to cut his proposed $34.9 million budget, but showed them how to cut $98,500 if they insist.

    Proposed spending for travel, overtime and equipment could be cut if necessary, but would make little difference in the proposed tax rate of $2.78 per $1,000 taxable value, Sizemore said.

    The current rate is $2.67 per $1,000 with a $31.3 million budget.

    George Edwards, who lives in the unincorporated area of St. Lucie County, urged board members to reduce the tax rate from its current level.

    "I don't see why you need a tax rate increase when you got nearly a 15 percent increase in taxable value," Edwards said. "You're taxing me out of my new house."

    Sizemore said the tax hike is necessary because of increased costs for insurance, salaries, retirement and other expenses.

    The fire board will have another public hearing Sept. 17 before voting on the proposal, which provides for hiring 21 more firefighters, a maintenance person and an additional employee for the finance office.

    If the proposed tax rate is adopted, the owner of a $125,000 house with the $25,000 homestead exemption would see an increase in fire district taxes from $267 to $278.

    Fire Board Chairman Doug Coward, who in July balked at the idea of raising taxes to hire more firefighters, said Wednesday he's reconsidering the idea.

    "The new staff first was sold as being to accommodate new growth, and I had a problem," Coward said. "But in a different context -- that we're already understaffed -- I would support it.

    "I haven't made my final decision," he said. "It is difficult to justify a tax increase when we have the 15 percent increase in the tax roll."

    Coward said in July that current residents shouldn't have to pay higher taxes to protect new development, which he said should pay for itself through higher impact fees or other measures.

    Officials said the St. Lucie County Fire District is understaffed.

    Two firefighters are usually on a fire engine and two on an ambulance, while national standards recommend at least three people, they said.

    Residents sometimes experience longer waits for service because all the personnel in the nearest fire station are on a call and others must come from a more distant station.

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    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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