Fire district assessment ignites citizen concerns

Notices for Holley-Navarre Fire District’s non-ad valorem assessments are arriving in mailboxes, and some property owners are expressing concerns about the listed dollar amounts.

Holley-Navarre Fire Chief Ron Norton said his office fielded more than 100 phone calls between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Aug. 9.

Of those calls, “99 percent of them have been about the square footage,” he said.

Norton said callers were concerned the square footage listed in their notices was too high. However, he pointed out that the assessment applies to gross square footage, including such areas as patios and garages – not just living space.

The new assessment rate for residential properties is $0.0547 per square foot with a minimum of $125.81. For commercial properties, the assessment stands at $0.1822 per square foot with a minimum of $419.06. The assessments will be collected on the ad valorem tax bill mailed in November.

The revised assessments were authorized in a referendum election Nov. 8. That referendum passed 62 percent to 38 percent with 19,181 ballots cast.

The increase in assessments was spurred by the need to expand fire services and facilities in response to area growth, according to the Holley-Navarre Fire District notice. The fire district expects to collect an estimated $2.8 million in fiscal year 2017-18.

A public hearing will be held Aug. 28 at 6 p.m. at Fire Station 45, 8618 Esplanade Street in Navarre, during which residents may comment on the proposed assessments.

The language of last year’s approved referendum read:

Shall the Holley-Navarre Fire District prepare to meet the continued growth-driven demand for fire protection services and increase the current annual non-ad valorem assessments, beginning fiscal year 2017/2018, to fund expanded fire protection services at rates of $0.0547 per ft.2/min. $125.81 for residential property, $0.1822 per ft2./min. $419.06 for commercial property, $29.55 per lot for vacant lots, and $9.85 per acre/min. $29.55 for unimproved acreage?

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