Commissioners approve fire MSBU increases

Santa Rosa Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) unanimously approved increases for several Municipal Service Benefit Units (MSBUs) for fire districts throughout the county, including Navarre Beach Fire Protection.

The reevaluation of fire MSBU rates in the county began after Navarre Beach Fire approached the BOCC in February requesting to raise residential and commercial rates for fire protection. Chief Danny Fureigh cited the need for a new ladder truck, repairs of the crumbling fire station and additional equipment as reasons for the increase.

He also had the backing of the Navarre Beach Leaseholders and Residents Association for the increase, but the board, led by Commissioner Lane Lynchard hesitated.

Lynchard expressed concerns that the increased commercial rates would impact the newly built Springhill Suites hotel disproportionally, an increase amounting to roughly $15,000.

The BOCC called for a study into fire MSBU rates for the beach as well as other departments in the county under MSBUs.

After the study was completed it was found that Navarre Beach Fire rates should actually be much higher than the original request. Based on this information, the BOCC tentatively set the rates to be heard at a public hearing in September.

The final rate for Navarre Beach is $500 for residential properties, increased from $350. Commercial property increased to $0.41 per square foot and dropping the blanket rate for buildings up to a certain square footage. Vacant properties would pay $63.

The new rates amount to a roughly $232,000 increase in the department’s annual budget.

In addition to the Navarre Beach changes, Santa Rosa County Fire Protection MSBUs were moved to rates of:

  • Residential Tier 1: $ 103.00
  • Residential Tier 2: $ 155.00
  • Commercial: $ 0.038 per sq. ft.
  • Vacant: $ 13.00

Commission Chairman Bob Cole said the county learned its lesson this year after large requests

Cole said they will take smaller bites of the apple in the future to allow fire departments to incrementally keep up with growth rather than having large scale increases after years of stagnation.

This hearing was the final step to finalize the new rates property owners will pay for the 2018-2019 fiscal year.

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