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Port Orange Observer Wednesday, May 29, 2019 3 months ago

Port Orange City Council considering new fire service fee

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The Port Orange City Council voted 3-2 on first reading to approve an ordinance that allows a fire assessment fee in the future.
by: Caroline Smith Contributing Writer

An ordinance allowing the city to collect a "fire service fee," separate from existing taxes for city resources, passed with a 3-2 vote during the Port Orange City Council meeting on May 22. 

But what that fee could look like is still up in the air. 

“There is nothing in the ordinance that talks about a specific fee in terms of an amount," Assistant City Manager Alan Rosen said.

Instead, he said the approval of the ordinance allows for further conversation surrounding the fee. Mayor Don Burnette and Councilmen Scott Stiltner and Drew Bastian voted to approve the ordinance.

However, Burnette expressed mixed feelings surrounding another fee, saying that the property tax system is inequitable in the sense that there are 1,100 homes not paying taxes that utilize Port Orange services.

“We heard from the public, you know, [with] our half cent sales tax, that they’re not interested in a tax increase, but I still think it’s important that we investigate this as we try to diversify our revenue stream any way we can moving forward," City Manager Jake Johansson said.

Rosen said that if the city were to consider collecting the fee this year, though, the city would be on a time crunch to work out the details of the fee.

“We’ve all learned recently that none of us know what the future holds,” Stiltner said. “But, I think the more options we have to consider as the city grows and moves forward, the better that is for our residents holistically.”

Vice Mayor Chase Tramont and interim city councilman Jack Wiles voted against the ordinance. Wiles said that since it affects both businesses and residents, he would need more information to vote in favor of the fee. He also commented on the length the council meeting had run.

"I'm not in the state of mind right now to digest [the information] tonight at 10 o'clock," Wiles said.

Burnette said he didn't have strong feelings about collecting a new fee this year.

“What I want to do is keep the tool in the toolbox because there’s always that question of equity," Burnette said. "Why is everybody else paying more when you’ve got 1,100 homes paying nothing?”

The fire assessment fee will return to the City Council at its next meeting for a second reading.

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