Board OK’s Fee Schedule
Look for your local Fort Myers Beach Fire Department on Social Media platforms after the department announced the formal launch of its participation on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at the Fire Board’s work session on Tuesday, August 14, 2019.
Executive Assistant Fire Chief Ron Martin explained in a press release that social media will assist the department in connecting to district residents. “Beyond emergency services, a social media presence will allow the FMBFD to keep our citizens and visitors up to date on current events with the department and share important community risk reduction messages.”
Find the FMBFD on Facebook and Instagram by searching for fortmyersbeachfire and on Twitter @FMBeachFire.
Martin also introduced a FMBFD Hurricane Preparedness Guide that is available by emailing Prevention@fmbfire.org. Including beach-specific information, it is designed to supplement the Lee County All Hazards Guide, which can be found at leeEOC.com
Fire Chief Matt Love explained that the fee schedule is evaluated annually as part of the budget process. “Last year we did an extensive data study on recovery of fees and determined that 92.5% of our Life Safety services were funded by taxpayers and just 7.5% by fees, while 75% of their time was taken up with property-specific services, such as inspections and reviews.” Ideally, 75% of the costs of that division would be paid through fees, but the Fire Board agreed that the fee increase to reach that level was more than businesses could handle and set fees so that they covered 30%. Love said that the Life Safety Division is now fully staffed as of the end of July, and he hopes to look at fees again next year to analyze a full 12 months’ worth of data.
Commissioner Jacki Liszak asked that a sliding fee be considered for non-profit events that involve multiple tents/vendors run by taxpaying beach residents and businesses as the department’s cost to do several at once would be less than to do separate inspections. Other commissioners questioned whether a non-profit fee would be fair. Love indicated that once the department has a full year of data, they can look at their costs and time.
2019 – 2020 Budget
Chief Love asked the board for a consensus on which tax rate they want to bring to Budget Hearings in September and they agreed that a millage (tax rate) of 2.9851 would allow the department to catch up on savings for building replacement. All other capital purchases are on a scheduled replacement plan. This year’s tax rate will allow the department’s buildings to be included, based on a planned 20% cash down payment and 80% financing.
Love explained, “Anything over 2.6153 (tax rate) goes into our building fund bucket.”
A second year of the elevated rate would be necessary to provide a 20% cash down payment for land on which to build a new Station 31. The land it currently sits on is too small to hold a new fire station.
Several commissioners commented that they felt their hands were tied based on past boards not planning for the replacement of Station 31, which will require a land purchase plus building a new station.
“We’ve been put in this position by 25 years of inaction. This is something we have to do,” said Commissioner Ron Fleming. Commissioner Bob Raymond added, “The problem is no one ever planned ahead.
Liszak asked what the higher rate would cost an average homeowner in the district. Love said that the average home taxable value in the district is $293,000. At the current millage rate of 2.6153, that homeowner pays $767/year. At the 2.9851 rate, that homeowner would pay $875/year, or an additional $9/month.
The first Public Budget Hearing for the FMBFD will be held at the Beach Library, 2755 Estero Blvd, on Thursday, September 12 at 5:15pm.
Battalion Commander Jake Lamb, representing IAFF District 15 reported that Joe Orlandini had recently donated the use of a property for training before it was demolished. “The department does not have a training facility,” Lamb said, “and we appreciated the ability to provide training such as cutting holes in the roof and taking out walls. That is just priceless training!” He encouraged anyone who was planning a demolition to contact the fire department.