PANAMA CITY Fla. (WMBB) — The possibility of adding a fire assessment tax in Panama City has many asking – what is it for?
City leaders want to help residents understand its importance before the September 14 public hearing that will decide if the tax should be placed on November ad valorem tax bills.
Residents like Jeremy Bunk are still asking what will this cost?
“I’m not sure where their budget is or where they are at fiscally,” said Bunk.
City Manager Mark McQueen said the tax would cost the average property owner around 25 dollars a month This comes from a base rate 176 dollars for each parcel of the area and a variable rate will be based on the improvements of the particular parcel
This tax money will go directly to the fire department budget.
“That budget is approximately 8.8 million dollars and the offset would be approximately 4.6 million dollars to the fire department budget,” said McQueen.
He said right now around 27 percent of Panama City property owners do not pay anything toward ad valorem such as the fire department.
If applied – the tax will lower the cost paid by the city to maintain the department and allow them to use that money elsewhere.
“Having a fire assessment helps to offset the expense which is roughly nine million dollars a year to maintain our fire department and that allows us to use the money in our general funds on things that we need like improving infrastructure,” said McQueen.
McQueen said this is the first time in many years the Panama City Fire Department has been fully staffed, and as the city continues to evolve it is important to support those who serve us year-round.
Since Hurricane Michael, the city has been working on improving three main things: firefighter fatigue, vehicle equipment, and improving facilities.
McQueen said he wants to make sure the city has stations in the right places to meet the response times for where they are needed.
To see what your estimated fire assessment tax would be, go to The City of Panama City’s website and type in your address for more details.