Fire Services Assessment
A “fire services assessment” is a special assessment imposed by the City against non-government property to fund all or a portion of the cost of making available and providing fire-rescue services. These costs include operating, capital, and debt-service costs to be incurred by the City.
The City adopted a fire services assessment as part of the revenue diversification efforts to reduce the City’s over-reliance on property taxes for funding the general operations of the government. The City chose a two-tiered approach to calculate the assessment. The two-tiered methodology for calculating the assessment requires all properties to participate at a set amount regardless of size (Tier 1). Tier 2 adds additional cost for developed properties based on building cost value and extra features.
This was a new methodology for calculating a fire assessment called “ready to serve” and requires a greater share of contribution from vacant parcels than the “calls for service” methodology used by other cities.
Because this was a new methodology, the City made the financially prudent decision to test the legality of the new methodology by issuing a bond and going through a bond validation process. The City’s methodology was validated by the Circuit Court in December 2013, and the decision was appealed to the Florida Supreme Court by a handful of local residents. On December 4, 2014, the Florida Supreme Court heard oral arguments from both sides. The Supreme Court upheld the lower court's decision in May 2015.