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Fire assessment lacks backing of council members

By Staff | Jul 14, 2009

A plan to introduce an assessment for fire services, thereby reducing the burden on property taxes to pay for the services, was stopped in its tracks Monday when it failed to garner sufficient support from city council members.
Although a reduction in the millage rate was designed to correspond with the implementation of the new fire assessment, the plan was deemed not feasible in light of the ongoing debate over the controversial utilities expansion project.
“I think for this year it is the end of it. There’s just too much other stuff going on,” said Councilmember Gloria Tate.
Under one version of the now defunct plan all residential properties would have paid an annual assessment of $264.07.
The assessments were estimated to generate $26.1 million, reducing the millage rate by about 2.475 mills.
Councilmember Derrick Donnell said residents he spoke with were not in favor of the fire assessments.
“They have said, ‘We would rather see it in the millage rate,'” he said.
Tate indicated that meant a better effort to educate residents on the issue should be mounted, but could not likely be accomplished given the council’s packed agenda.
“This would be future discussion, it’s an education process. I think we have to keep talking about it,” she said.
The fire assessment is not moving forward, but there are two other possible new taxes in the city’s pipeline.
The public services tax would add 10 percent to electric bills. The local communications services tax that appears on phone and cable bills would increase from 4 percent to 5.22 percent.
The two taxes are aimed at diversifying the city’s revenue and reducing its reliance on property taxes.
One council member, however, prefers to see them all defeated.
“I don’t intend to support any of them,” said Councilmember Bill Deile.
“I’d like us to diversify our tax base by getting more commercial use, mixed use so we’re not as dependent on single-family dwellings,” he added.