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Bayshore Fire assessment fails again

By Staff | Nov 6, 2014

The numbers may have changed, but the proposed Bayshore fire assessment was once again overwhelming rejected on Election Day.

More than 70 percent of voters rejected the assessment Tuesday; more than 73 percent rejected it during the June 24 special election.

Fire Chief Larry Nisbet said he wasn’t surprised by the outcome.

“It’s a tough decision. There’s still a little misunderstanding that it would be added on to the taxes,” Nisbet said. “It seems the voters don’t like the methodology.”

Nisbet said he will have to stick with the ad valorem millage of 3.50 and hope for new construction in the area.

This time around the district attempted to make the assessment a little more palatable for residents by reducing it to 70 percent of the original proposal.

Originally, the fixed cost per dwelling was proposed at $587.78 annually, regardless of the value of the property. Commercial land would have been assessed at 51 cents per square foot, institutional properties (churches, etc.) at $1.26, industrial warehouse at 5 cents and vacant and agricultural land at $63.97 per acre, capped at 10 acres.

When that assessment failed, Nisbet laid off six firefighters on Sept. 14, as he said he would have to do if additional revenues could not be raised. As the measure was given a second chance for the general election, the fire board made some changes to lighten the burden.

This time, a single-family home would have been assessed at $412, commercial land and institutional properties was assessed at 36 cents per square foot, industrial warehouse at 3 cents and vacant and agricultural land was assessed at $12.82 per acre with no cap.

Nisbet said the hope was to restore three firefighter positions during the next budget cycle.

In Lehigh Acres, the fire assessment narrowly passed, making it the first in the area to have such an assessment with this methodology approved by voters.

Bayshore, which is a third of the size as Lehigh voters, didn’t see things the same way, and some expressed their discontent.

“I think all the fire districts need to be consolidated and trim their budgets big time,” said Rachel Singletary.

“I think they need to run the department more efficiently than what they’re doing now,” said voter Joe Messier.

Nisbet said consolidation would be of no benefit, since other districts are in the same predicament with low staffing and shoestring budgets.

“North Fort Myers is down 18 positions, closed a fire station and making ends meet. We laid off six firefighters and reduced our budget as low as we can go,” Nisbet said. “There’s no benefit because there would be no increase to personnel.”