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West Palm Beach Seeks Citizen Input on Proposed Fire Assessment Rates
Public Hearing Scheduled for August 26, 2019 at 5 p.m. at City Hall
WEST PALM BEACH, FLA. (July 17, 2019) – City of West Palm Beach Mayor Keith A. James and City Commissioners want to hear from you! The City is seeking public input on proposed fire assessment rates. Approved by Commissioners in 2008, the annual recurring Fire Services special assessment program provides a dedicated, stable source of funding for fire services, excluding emergency medical services. The assessment is used to fund all aspects of the City’s fire service program, including paid firefighters, related facilities such as new fire stations and a training facility, apparatus, equipment and programs.
A public hearing to receive and consider comments from the public is scheduled for August 26, 2019 at 5:00 p.m. at City Hall, located at 401 Clematis Street. The public is encouraged to attend and participate.
The proposed Fire Service Assessment rate for 2019 is as follows:
RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY:                              $100
NON-RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY:  Rate Per Building Square Foot
                                Commercial                                        $0.103
Industrial/Warehouse                  $0.018
Institutional                                        $0.123
Nursing Home                                   $0.372
 
The special assessment is collected by the County Tax Collector through the property tax bill.
Additionally, citizens may ask questions—in English or in Spanish-- about the proposed rates and provide feedback by calling City of West Palm Beach Neighborhood Services coordinator Jose Tagle at (561) 822-1412. For TTY, call (800) 955-8771.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
Q.           What does the fire assessment fee fund?
A.            The fire services assessment is used to pay for a portion of the costs of providing fire services to properties in the City. It helps fund paid firefighters, related facilities, apparatus, equipment and programs. Operating costs of West Palm Beach Fire Rescue have increased significantly for acquisition and maintenance of the fire trucks, equipment, hoses and apparatus, firefighter pensions, and building renovations for additional personnel.
 
Q.           What are the benefits of the program to property owners in the City of West Palm Beach?
A.            You will continue to receive the excellent service you have come to expect. The fire services assessment program provides a cost-effective and financially-stable means of funding fire services and facilities for years to come to promote stability in insurance rates, protection of public safety, and enhancement of property.
 
Fire suppression, prevention and other fire services provide a special benefit to properties by protecting the value and integrity of improvements to real property and protecting the use and enjoyment of such property.  The availability of comprehensive fire services reduces the cost of fire insurance and enhances the market perception and property values.
 
Q.           Why use special assessments to fund fire services? What is the difference between the fire services special assessment and the property taxes I pay the City?
A.            The use of special assessments requires the City to meet the Florida case law requirements for a valid special assessment including fair and reasonable apportionment. This means that unlike taxes, which can be used for any general purpose, fire protection special assessments must be developed to recover each property’s proportionate share of the costs of providing fire services. Under the City’s approach, this means the owner of each improved property will pay their proportionate share of the costs of making these fire services available regardless of their assessable value.
 
Q.           What are other cities charging? Are West Palm Beach citizens pay more or less?
A.            Comparatively speaking, West Palm Beach has some of the lowest fire fees in the region (see graph).
 
Fire-Assessment-Fee.png
 
Q.           If I have a question about this, who should I call?
A.            For English and Spanish inquiries, please contact: Jose Tagle, City of West Palm Beach Neighborhood Services Coordinator at (561) 822-1412. For TTY, call (800) 955-8771.
 
Q.           What is the history of the fire assessment rate program in our city?
A.            In 2008, the City Commission adopted Ordinance No. 4141-08, and Resolution Nos. 212-08 and 332-08 establishing an annual recurring Fire Services special assessment program for properties within the City to fund the assessable costs of providing fire services, excluding emergency medical services.
 
The City Commission annually passes a resolution describing the services, facilities or programs to be funded, determining the cost to be assessed, establishing the assessment rates, and following all procedural requirements required by law and Ordinance No. 4141-08.
 
The City Commission approved a rate increase for the Fire Service Assessment on August 27, 2018 for the first time since initially adopted in 2008. However, the operating costs of the fire department have increased significantly for acquisition and maintenance of the fire trucks, equipment, hoses and apparatus, firefighter pensions, and building renovations for additional personnel. It has been determined that an increase in the Fire Assessment rates is necessary to help offset the increase in the operating costs of the Fire Department.
 
Q.           How did the city determine the proposed rate structure?
A.            The City contracts with Government Services Group, Inc. for annual Fire Assessment Program services. For Fiscal Year 2019, an additional study was performed to update the apportionment methodology based on the Fire Department’s cost of providing services and a study of call data for the past three years. Based on this cost apportionment study, an increase in assessment is supported to meet the service demands and cost of providing the services.
 
Q.           What period of time does the assessment cover, and when will the assessment be payable?
A.            The fire services special assessment may be imposed annually and will cover October 1 – September 30 of each fiscal year. It will be payable as part of your tax bill each year between November 1 and March 31.