TRIM notices (see sample to the right) are arriving in Santa Rosa County mailboxes and this year they include a requested increased fire assessment for county residences, businesses and vacant land located within the fire districts of Allentown, Bagdad, Berrydale, East Milton, Harold, Jay, Munson, Pace and Skyline as well as Navarre Beach.
Municipal Service Benefit Unit (MSBU) funding for fire districts has remained the same since 2007 during which time the county has seen record growth, putting a strain on departments as they try to keep up with the increased demand for emergency services including increasing personnel and equipment cost.
"Call volumes for our fire departments have increased 37 percent since 2011 and we have more than $2 million in apparatus that is now more than 10 years old," explained Brad Baker, Santa Rosa County emergency management director. "With the unprecedented growth we've seen in the county, we've had to add shifts, hire additional personnel and add new fire stations to accommodate the increase in residents - and more is needed."
The assessments requested for MSBU-funded fire districts in the north end of Santa Rosa County range by square footage and start at $103 per residence up to 2700 sq. ft. and $155 for those 2700 sq. ft and greater, while commercial (non-residential) rates are $.038 per sq. ft. and vacant land will be $13 per parcel. The Navarre Beach fire district assessment rate categories are $500 per dwelling unit, $0.41 per sq. ft. for commercial property and $63 per parcel for vacant land.
A public hearing on MSBU adjustments will be held Sept. 11, 6 p.m., at the Santa Rosa County Administrative Center boardroom, 6495 Caroline Street in Milton.
The “Truth In Millage” (TRIM) law was designed to inform property owners of their rights as taxpayers and the Santa Rosa County property appraiser mails TRIM notices to every property owner of record each year in mid-August. Communities not affected by the MSBU fire assessment rules include Midway, Holley-Navarre, Avalon-Mulat, Whiting Field and the cities of Gulf Breeze and Milton.
For more details, see:
- Santa Rosa County Fiscal Year 2018-19 Fire Assessment Rules
- Capital Needs for the unincorporated communities of Allentown, Bagdad, Berrydale, East Milton, Harold, Jay, Munson, Pace and Skyline (PDF)
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the new fire assessment rates?
Residential Tier 1 = $103 (2,700 sq. ft. or less under roof)
Residential Tier 2 = $155 (greater than 2,700 sq. ft.)
Vacant Lot = $13
Non-Residential (commercial/other) = $0.038 sq/ft
Why did my rate go from $85 to $155 instead of $103?
Santa Rosa County hired Government Services Group to do a rate study. GSG looked at average-sized homes and determined the average home in Santa Rosa County is 2,700 sq. ft.. Any home 2,700 sq. ft. (under roof) or less is categorized as Tier 1 and anything larger is Tier 2 (the previous Tier 2 was 3,500 sq. ft. of living area).
Why is there such an increase?
The last increase was in 2007 and the growth of the county has exceeded the capacity of the fire service. With a 37% increase in call volume, and the addition of houses in areas that previously did not demand fire protection, there is a need for additional fire stations, fire apparatus and full-time firefighters.
What is an ISO rating and how could this fire assessment affect departments' ratings?
Insurance Services Office Inc. (ISO)is the organization that rates fire departments or assigns them a public protection classification ranging from one to 10. A class 10 rating would mean no organized fire protection is present within the community. Most insurance companies base rates off of ISO ratings or a combination of ratings/other risks. Bringing fire and emergency services levels up to meet the demands of growing communities will allow departments to work toward lowering their respective ISO ratings. Thus improving the level of fire protection could also earn lower property insurance rates for home and business owners.
Is my neighbor getting an increase?
The nine MSBU fire districts include Allentown, Bagdad, Berrydale, East Milton, Harold, Jay, Munson, Navarre Beach, Pace and Skyline. Residents who live within the boundaries of those districts will see an increase. There are special legislative districts and municipalities that cover other areas and they set their own rates.
Why do we need to add paid firefighters?
Volunteerism has gone way down in the last 10 years and the call volumes have continued to increase putting a strain on those who are running the calls.
When will it go into effect?
October 1, 2018
I thought Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) was for capital fire equipment?
For the five-year LOST list, fire departments submitted $1,490,000 of capital equipment but due to the high cost of one apparatus it was decided to submit non-apparatus for LOST Funding.
Will this fund fire hydrants?
This MSBU is not designed to fund hydrants. Water mains belong to the water purveyors and they control the placing of fire hydrants. While there are increased standards for placing hydrants on new water mains there is nothing that requires the purveyors to add hydrants to existing older mains. To pursue this, please reach out to your water provider. To see which fire hydrant is closest to you, see our interactive fire hydrant map.
I have more questions, how do I get answers?
Call the Emergency Management Office at 850-983-5360 or attend the public meeting at 6 p.m. on September 11, 2018 at the Santa Rosa County Administrative Center boardroom, 6495 Caroline Street in Milton.
In 1980, the Florida Legislature passed the “Truth In Millage” (TRIM) law. The law is designed to inform property owners of their rights as taxpayers. The property appraiser mails TRIM notices to every property owner of record each year in mid-August. The TRIM notice explains:
1. The proposed market value and assessed value of a property this year as compared to last year;
2. Tax-saving exemptions, if any, on a property this year and last year; and
3. The tax amounts and special fees proposed by each of the county's taxing authorities (school board, county commission, fire districts, etc); a comparison of the proposed new taxes versus last year’s taxes; and the locations and dates of the public hearings where the public can voice views on the proposed rates.