Property Tax Hike Approved Should Fire Tax Fail
A millage increase was approved Thursday that can be used in the event that the fire readiness fee is not certified by the court.
Mayor Bill Foster said it is important for the city and City Council to have as many "tools in the tool box" it can when balancing budgets over the next several years.
Earlier this month, the Council approved the creation of a fire readiness fee that may generate up to $10 million annually.
Should the courts, or another vote, throw a wrench in those plans, Foster proposed to set the 2013 millage rate at 6.7742 mills. That millage increase would generate close to the amount of the fire tax.
"This option is available for Council to set in the event that the fire readiness fee option is unavailable," said Budget and Management Director Richard Bulger. "Between the fire readiness fee and the millage ... both will generate roughly the same revenue."
"In the event the fire fee is not certified by the court, something should happen to the fire free, this is the tool in your bag to generate revenue," Foster said.
On Thursday, the Council unanimously approved the rate but its intentions to use it are not final. Should the readiness fee become certified, Foster said he would not propose a millage rate increase.
According to Bulger, the rollback rate for 2013 would be 6.0351 mills. That means in order for the city to bring in the same amount of ad valorem revenue it did in 2013, it would have to raise the millage rate to 6.0351.
The fire readiness tax has come under mounting criticism as a regressive tax that unfairly hurts nonprofits and the poor.
Council member Karl Nurse said at Thursday's meeting that there could be a way to lessen the burden on the poor with the fire readiness tax, but that it would require at least some form of millage increase.
He said there are three options:
- Exempt non-profits,
- Lower the base fee from $75 per parcel to $50;
- Remove the $10 million dollar cap on the $0.23 per $1,000 of the value of improvements that is attributed to tax parcels by the county property appraiser.
"If we amend (the fire readiness fee), that would require some millage money as well to balance the budget," Nurse said.
The city will hold public hearings on the 2013 budget on Sept. 13 and 27, which will then officially set the millage, fees and budget allocations.