CRESTVIEW — City water customers will see an extra charge on their monthly bills if the City Council implements a proposed fire services assessment fee.
The council recently voted 3-2 to spend $19,500 to hire Tallahassee Government Services Group consultants to determine the assessment's feasibility.
How it works
If the assessment is approved, all water utility users would pay an amount based on their percentage of impact on the fire department, Crestview Fire Chief Joe Traylor has said.
If enacted earlier, the assessment could've generated as much as $1.25 million of the department's current $3.7 million budget, Traylor estimated.
Under its study's first $19,500 phase, GSG will evaluate fire protection services demand and funding over the past three years and look at future needs based on the fire department's five-year plan.
The second phase, which would cost the city $9,500, would involve determining how much to assess water customers.
City Clerk Betsy Roy stated in a council brief that because GSG has contracts with other Florida cities and counties, Crestview can "piggyback off of these contracts, per our purchasing manual, without going out for competitive bids for the services."
Millage could drop
Traylor, in suggesting the assessment, followed the council's directive, Councilman Tom Gordon said.
"We've challenged the departments to come back and show how they could raise money or lower their budget," he said. "Chief Traylor did that."
"What I like is that it's fair to all the citizens and doesn't put the burden on a few," Council President Shannon Hayes said.
The assessment's supporters say it could reduce the city's millage rate, lowering the burden on the 43 percent of residents who pay property taxes.
But there's no guarantee that would happen, Councilwoman Robyn Helt said, adding, "It was presented as it could, not will, lower the millage."
Traylor has said that because the assessment would be added to water customers' bills, it is not subject to property owners' homestead exemptions.
Helt — who, with Councilman Mickey Rytman voted against Gordon's motion — said she opposed it, in part, because the study would be funded with "non-budgeted money to a company that didn't competitively bid to offer the service."
The city's general fund, bolstered in January to $858,000 by a refund from Gulf Power for overbilled lighting service, would fund the study.