Q&A: FWB Fire Assessment Study

Q&A: FWB Fire Assessment Study

December 15, 2016
Straight from the Source: Fort Walton Beach Fire Assessment As you may know, a Fire Assessment study is underway for the City of Fort Walton Beach. Since we know that our residents may have a lot of questions about this subject, we wanted to share what we know so far:

Was a new fire tax or fee approved by the FWB City Council on December 13th? NO. The City of FWB is currently looking into whether a special Fire Assessment could be a realistic funding model for the Fort Walton Beach City Fire Department. However, this study is in progress and any Council decision will be based on complete data and research.

What is a Fire Assessment? A fire assessment is a charge imposed against real *property* to pay for fire services provided by local governments. While the City’s current funding model relies partially on fluctuating ad valorem and property values, the goal of a Fire Assessment is to offer a stable, dedicated, and equitably determined funding source for key fire services. This also means that property owners within City limits could expect a stable, dedicated, and equitably determined model for paying for their fire services.

In order to know if this is an idea that will work for the City of FWB, however, City staff and Council will need to see a completed study and numbers that work for both our fire department and for our citizens. Whether the City can use this to offset the millage rate, whether exemptions are possible, and so on, are all things that the Council will look at once all the research has been completed.

So what did the Council Just Decide? The Council just approved a resolution that notifies the Okaloosa County Property Appraiser and Tax Collector that IF the City eventually decides to implement a Fire Assessment, the tax bill MAY be the selected method of collection for the assessments. By state statute, this resolution is a required step in the City’s process of weighing all future options as the Fire Assessment study continues. Again, NO fee or tax was passed by the Council at the December meeting.

What Happens Next? May 9, 2017: The completed study and presentation of findings will be brought to the FWB City Council for review and next steps. This will be a PUBLIC meeting with the opportunity for public input.

November 2017: IF a Fire Assessment is approved, November 2017 is when it could potentially appear on property owners’ tax bills.

We want our taxpayers and citizens to be informed participants in this and any process the City takes on. Participate in the process and contact your council members. Stay informed, stay involved!

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