Panama City looking to add Fire Assessment fee for residents

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB)– The City Commission of Panama City voted yesterday to begin the process of raising funds for the City Fire Department. After sustaining impacts from Hurricane Michael and now COVID-19, the city says it could be facing substantial economic shortfalls.

The fire assessment would aim to share the cost of fire protections with residents. It’s a fee that’s already implemented in Springfield and Panama City Beach.

“We have over 800 million dollars worth of property in the city that pays no ad valorem, and yet we have an expectation to provide fire safety to those properties,” said Panama City City Manager, Mark McQueen.

McQueen also said Panama City is looking to add two new fire stations and replace aging fire trucks to increase more safety across the board.

“This is not only meeting the here and now requirements, but also ensuring that we’re set for the future,” said McQueen.

The city is projecting fees to cost the average homeowner $25 a month. In total, they are hoping for the funds to cover 40% of the 2021 budget.

Some residents are more than happy to an extra cost for the added benefits of safety.

“Local fire departments need the funds to do what they need to do as helping people, so I wouldn’t mind one bit,” said Adrian Garcia.

While other residents understand the need, they’re not enthusiastic about an added cost.

“While I understand the city is trying to do positive things, I am a little apprehensive about having an extra tax, but it may be necessary,” said Jerry Jimmerson.

A mailed notice will be sent to be affected property owners. A public hearing is set for September 14th, for the assessment to be considered and voted on.

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