The return of Breidenstein signals move to increase Fire Assessment Fee

During their regular business meeting on Monday night, St Augustine city commissioners will get to hear a more detailed proposal regarding the Fire Assessment Fee from Budget Director Meredith Breidenstein according to the published agenda received by Historic City News Friday.

The stated goal of the commission is to establish a policy to recover half of the cost to provide fire services to the city’s residents and businesses through assessment of the fee. Currently, the City says that they are recovering about 30% of their costs.

In order to accomplish their goal, the current 6¢ per-square-foot fee, unchanged since 2009, will have to be increased. However, before determining how much the assessment should change, the commission is considering a proposal that will differentiate between residential property owners and commercial or institutional ones.

Fire Chief J. C. Costeira has reported that, in most cases, the cost to respond to commercial and institutional properties is higher than responses to residences within the city.

For that reason, Breidenstein proposed a higher share for non-residential properties. Although homeowners might see an increase in their assessment as little as from 6¢ per-square-foot to 7¢ per-square-foot, the commission will consider assessing commercial and institutional properties at a rate of 12.7¢ per-square-foot.

Under the legacy assessment method, the city raised about $976,000.

Breidenstein, who is a Certified Public Accountant, ran the numbers that reflect recovery of a range between 24% up to 52% of actual fire service costs.

If the commission can agree on the level of increase to assess, they could hold a public hearing and final vote as early as the first meeting in August.

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