Walton County Fire Rescue looking to raise fire fees

Published: Friday, July 5, 2013 at 12:10 PM.

After years of rising fire protection expenses, Walton County officials are looking for a way to protect  residents as well as its tax dollars.

In a recent study of funding costs, Walton County Fire Rescue saw that only 5 percent of services were being funded through MSBU Fire Assessment Fee Structure, the other 95 has been coming out of ad valorem taxes.

"The whole reason to issue fire fees was so it could pay for itself," said Louis Svehla, public information officer for the Walton County Board of County Commissioners .

Since 1994 Walton County Fire has used an MSBU — Municipal Service Benefit Units — fire fees versus using ad valorem taxes to fund firefighters and fire stations. In an effort to fix the fee structure, the Walton County Board of County Commissioners will be holding a public hearing July 9, for the purpose of receiving public comment on the proposed fire fee assessments. 

Currently, through the MSBU program, each residential property and commercial property pays a flat fee for the services the local fire department provides, instead of basing how much someone pays on the value of their property.

The BOC hired Government Services Group, Inc., a Tallahassee based company to assess the current program, after years of urging from the Walton County Taxpayers Association (WCTA). The survey showed the BOC that annual residential fire fees would need to be raised from its current $25 to $379 in order to be fully funded.

"But the board said there's no way," Svehla said.

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