WMFR commissioners vote on assessment increase

WMFR commissioners vote on assessment increase
Some of the capital projects that WMFR’s leadership plans for is the purchase of new apparatus such as this new fire engine that will be ready to serve the district in coming weeks. - Submitted | WMFR

BRADENTON – Property owners in the West Manatee Fire Rescue District will see an increase in their assessment rate when TRIM notices are mailed in the fall.

During a May 19 meeting, commissioners voted 3-1 with Commissioner Al Robinson dissenting, to raise the assessment rate 2.6% over the current year’s rates. Commissioner David Bishop was absent.

At the 2.6% increase, the district’s revenue will increase by $189,436, eliminating the need for district leaders to draw from reserves to meet anticipated needs including capital projects and projected increases in insurance, pension fund contributions and a potential increase in employee compensation. Commissioner Larry Jennis reminded his fellow board members that the coming year is a bargaining year with the firefighters’ union. For the 2020-21 fiscal year, WMFR’s staff projects bringing in $7,475,424 in revenue from assessments.

With the increase, the base rate for a residential property increases to $195.53 from $190.57 with the square foot rate increasing from $0.1124 to $0.1153. The total assessment rate for a 2,000 square foot residential building will increase from $302.97 to $310.85.

For commercial buildings, the base rate will increase from $473.62 to $485.94 with the square foot rate increasing from $0.2051 to $0.2104. The total assessment rate for a 2,000 square foot commercial building will increase from $678.72 to $696.37.

Before the vote was taken, Commissioner Al Robinson expressed concern about raising the assessment rate in a year that has produced financial hardship for many property owners.

“I’m not in favor of raising anything,” Robinson said. “We have plenty of money.”

Chief Ben Rigney said that the district’s staff typically spends about 95% of the funds budgeted each year. Any rollover amounts are put into savings for future capital expenses, equipment purchases or emergency savings in case of a natural disaster.

“I think it’s very evident that our staff has been frugal in spending taxpayer dollars,” Commissioner George Harris said, adding that he believes the board makes a sound decision each year concerning assessment rates.

Each year, the amount that commissioners can increase the assessment rate is based on a rolling five-year personal income growth number or PIG. This year, the maximum amount allowed for an increase is 5.46%. Because he expects the next year’s PIG to be much lower, Rigney asked commissioners to consider a 4% increase, which was rejected by board members.

“I know it was a tough decision but we have to do what’s best for the district,” Commissioner Randy Cooper said after the vote had been taken.

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