Historic City News readers who own property in the City of St. Augustine recently received notices for the 2018/2019 Fire Assessment Fee; an additional fee over and above regular property taxes that may only be used to support fire protection services.
Unlike ad valorem taxes, where exemptions may be allowed for certain non-profit properties such as churches and educational institutions, the Fire Assessment Fee is assessed against all properties. Some of the unique characteristics of the Fire Assessment Fee have caused property owners to seek clarifications. Here are five of the most frequently asked questions and their answers.
- Who pays this fee?
All properties, except some exempt state and federal properties, pay this fee. This means that colleges, churches, non-profits, governments and other properties that do not pay ad valorem taxes (property taxes) are required to pay this Fire Assessment Fee.
- Is this a bill I need to pay now?
No, this is a notice letting you know about a proposed fee increase. A public hearing is scheduled for August 13 on this fee increase. If passed, the fee will be included on your annual property tax bill that you receive from the St. Johns County Tax Collector.
- My square footage is not as high as what is stated on the notice. Why?
The Fire Assessment Fee is assessed on all portions of a structure with a roof and/or walls. The square footage of your home usually covers only the heated and cooled areas of your home. The square footage on your notice also includes garages, sheds, balconies, screened porches, etc.
- How does the city know what my square footage is?
We use data from the St. Johns County Property Appraisers office to determine the assessable square footage of your home. To see your property card and the details of your building, please visit the St. Johns County Property Appraiser’s web site at www.sjcpa.us and click on the Property Records tab.
- Is this a new fee or an increase to an existing fee?
This is not a new fee. It was implemented in the early 1990s. In 2016, the fee was $0.06 per square foot for every structure in the City limits. A study determined that commercial structures should pay a higher rate than residential structures based on historical calls for service. For fiscal year 2017, the fee was changed to $0.041 per square foot for residential properties and $0.0747 per square foot for commercial properties. Last fiscal year, 2018, it was raised to $0.4932 per square foot for residential and $0.09 per square foot for commercial. For the upcoming fiscal year 2019, the proposed increase would set the residential rate at $0.0589 per square foot and commercial at $0.1075 per square foot. The City Commission’s goal has been to assess this fee so that it covers 50% of the Fire Departments operations. The current rate covers 36% of operations and the proposed fee will cover 42% of operations.
Rate per square foot
- Upcoming budget meetings
For those who wish to offer input during the City Commission’s budget related meetings, here is a schedule of those meetings.
- Monday, August 13, 3:00 pm-5:00 pm (Special Meeting): Discussion of the 2018 budget assumptions and the five-year Capital Improvement Plan.
- Monday, August 13, 5:00 pm (Regular Meeting): Public hearing on budget-related resolutions as necessary.
- Thursday, August 23, 9:00 am (Special Meeting): Presentation of and discussion regarding the FY 2019 proposed budget and action items.
- Friday, August 24, 9:00 am (Special Meeting): Discussion and approval of proposed FY 2019 proposed budget and action items.