An ordinance will come up for discussion again in May.
Port Orange City Council voted 3-1 to prepare an ordinance establishing an assessment fee for fire services at its regular meeting on Feb. 19.
Councilman Chase Tramont voted against preparing the ordinance. When Amendment 1 did not pass last year, he said he lost interest in the need for a fee.
“From an administrative standpoint I understand the need to diversify your revenue stream,” Tramont said. “It’s another tool in the box. But from a taxpayer standpoint, it’s just another way to take more money from my pocket. Now you could lower the millage rate and add a fire fee but then you’re just kissing me on one cheek and smacking me on the other.”
The city has been looking into fire fee assessment since Oct., 2018, when Amendment 1 was up for vote. Council members wanted to explore ways of implementing equitable fees for service should the amendment have passed.
Sandy Walker, with Government Services Group, Inc., presented information about fire assessments (a charge imposed against real property to pay for fire protection services) to City Council, including advantages like diversity with funds, and an even cost spread among the public. Since everyone receives fire services, the cost of a service is more equitable, according to Walker's presentation.
Another advantage she presented was that a set budget creates a stable revenue stream.
Mayor Don Burnette gave a business perspective.
“Any time a business can diversify its income stream is a good thing,” he said. “There are over 1,000 homes in Port Orange that don’t pay taxes but they use our services.”
If a fee of $25 per household was put in place, it could generate about $833,000 for the city, he said. Councilman Drew Bastion said he was familiar with this kind of fee and thought it should be an option to consider further.
Councilman Scott Stiltner had questions about what the fairest way to handle fees for fire services would be.
“Shouldn’t everyone pay something?" Stiltner said. "What’s the fairest way to do this? Some homes pay too much in taxes, some pay none."
Allan Rosen, assistant city manager, said that preparing an ordinance for fire service fee consideration does not lock the city into implementation. The ordinance will come up for discussion again in May.