The Gainesville City Commission set the initial fire assessment for 2024, using a new formula the commission approved earlier this spring.
The commission approved the new methodology – used to calculate more than 90% of fire rates in Florida – at its March 23 meeting. The new formula reduces the proportion of the assessment paid by single-family houses and increases the proportion of the assessment collected from larger, multifamily buildings.
Commissioner Reina Saco said at the March meeting that fires at multi-story and warehouses take more personnel and fire equipment and create a greater risk than fires at single-family homes, which is why she supported the formula change.
The assessment will be based on the square footage of the building. Single-family homes would pay $0.0878 per square foot while multifamily buildings would pay $0.0870 per square foot. The non-residential rates are $0.1156 for commercial properties, $0.0862 for industrial properties and $0.2211 for institutional properties.
“I believe a formula is the way to go because it’s an objective measure,” Commissioner Ed Book said.
City Attorney Daniel Nee said switching the methodology from hazard classification system to the new methodology should make it “simpler for people to understand and easier for staff to explain to people.”
The commission voted 4-2 to pass the resolution at its Thursday evening meeting with Commissioner Desmon Duncan-Walker absent and commissioners Casey Willits and Bryan Eastman in dissent.
Eastman and Willets said they were concerned with raising the fire assessment in a year when the property taxes also were going to increase. Willets called the new rates a “double whammy” on people living in multifamily housing.
But Saco said focusing on the fire rate for individuals missed the point of the assessment.
“I don’t want us to be penny wise and pound foolish when it comes to something like fire safety, where the thought of saving $10 across the year per unit then leads to danger to property and life,” Saco said.
City Manager Cynthia Curry said the new formula, applied to an expected increase in property values, would generate $2 million more in revenue in 2024 than was raised by the assessment in 2023.
The commission will vote on the final fire assessment at its Sept. 7 meeting.