Escambia eyes higher fire costs of $40, but reduced property tax to fund fire services : NorthEscambia.com
Property owners in Escambia County may see a $40 increase in fire costs, but see their property tax rate decrease at the same time.
It’s the latest solution being considered as a way to increase funding by $6 million to respond to county fire departments next year.
Chairman Jeff Bergosh introduced the “tax exchange” at a Thursday workshop meeting of the Escambia County Commission. This, he said, “leaves the property owner paying Escambia County tax without a property tax increase…even though he will pay more if his property (value) increases.”
The county is forecasting about $19 million more in property tax revenue next year with no change in the tax rate due to rising property values. The $40 increase will increase the MSBU fire from $125 to $165 per year.
Ultimately, Bergh said he believed a sales tax hike was the way to fund Escambia County firefighters, but the timeline to put the plan on the ballot means it won’t. cannot happen before 2024.
Bergosh also offered to cut 125 jobs out of a pool of 400 currently vacant positions to save millions more.
Commissioner Doug Underhill took the idea one step further by recommending the elimination of 200 vacant positions.
“We are clearly capable of conducting government business without them,” Underhill said. “We are clearly capable of running this government with 400 fewer people than we have on the books.”
“Keep in mind that none of these discussions mean going to someone in one of our offices and saying, ‘you have to go home’. It just means weeding out housing that is obviously not needed …because the staff we did the same job,” Underhill continued.
Commissioner Steven Barry didn’t say much during the board discussion, saying “put this on the agenda next week, we’ll fix it” when pressed for comment by Bergosh.
“I agree with our chairman that this is a good day for the taxpayers of Escambia County,” Barry told NorthEscambia.com after the meeting. “I support, and expect based on the conversations we have had at board meetings, that there will be no type of rate increase of any kind recommended by the board, whether MSBU or ad valorem Also, I believe Commissioner Bergosh’s long-term idea of funding the fire service through a taxpayer-voted sales tax and doing away with the MSBU altogether makes perfect sense .