WMFR board may raise 2021-22 assessment rates

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BRADENTON – Rates may be increasing for residents and business owners in the West Manatee Fire Rescue District, but if they do increase, it will only be by 4% for the 2021-22 fiscal year.

Commissioners held their annual mid-year budget workshop on April 20 prior to the start of their monthly meeting. During the meeting, they reviewed where the district currently sits with its 2020-21 budget six months into the fiscal year and where staff sees the district going financially during the next fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

At the mid-year point, staff reported that the district is right on target with 51.44% of expenses accounted for and 86.15% of total income collected. WMFR’s total break-even budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year includes $9,410,362 in expenses. Those expenses take into account $1.631 million in capital expenses largely attributed to the construction of WMFR’s new administration building.

The proposed 2021-22 fiscal year budget is projected to break even at $8,238,154, a difference of -$1,172,208 from the current year. That number includes a 4% assessment increase proposed by Chief Ben Rigney to help cover the costs of a new three-year employment contract currently wrapping up in negotiations between the district and the firefighters’ union.

WMFR’s assessments are non-ad valorem, meaning that the amount of the assessment is tied to the size of a structure on a lot, or a flat fee if the lot is vacant, and whether the use is residential or commercial.

A 4% increase in rates would bring the district’s projected assessment rate revenue up to $7,820,586.80, an estimated increase of $300,791.80 over the current fiscal year’s projected assessment revenue of $7,519,795. Rigney projects $365,967.67 in increased costs for the 2021-22 fiscal year but says what the district doesn’t make up for in rate increases can be achieved through lowered costs in other areas.

If commissioners vote during their May meeting to increase the district’s rates by 4%, the residential base rate will increase by $7.82 to $203.35 with a residential per square foot increase from $0.1153 to $0.1199 for every square foot of a building over 1,000 square feet. For a 2,000-square-foot home, the rate would increase from the current $310.85 to $323.28; a 3,000-square-foot home would increase from $426.17 to $443.22 and a 4,000-square-foot home would increase from $541.50 to $563.16.

With a 4% increase, the commercial base rate would go from $485.94 to $505.38, an increase of $19.41. The commercial per square foot rate would go from $0.2104 to $0.2188 for the amount of square feet over 1,000. For a 2,000-square-foot commercial space, the rate would increase to $724.23. At 3,000 square feet, the rate would be $943.08 and at 4,000 square feet, the rate would increase to $1,161.92 for a commercial building.

For residential properties, Rigney said the average increase would be $12.50 with a $28 increase for commercial properties.

WMFR’s assessment rate is noted on the TRIM notices mailed out in the fall and collected as a part of the owner’s property tax bill.

Assessment rates are allowed to be increased by the fire district each year according to the personal income growth number, or PIG, determined by the U. S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. This year’s PIG is 6.8% for the state of Florida, though the maximum increase considered and dismissed by WMFR commissioners was 5.64%.

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