AVON PARK — Discussion on the city’s fire assessment centered on the fire department’s budget at a recent City Council meeting with no decision yet on changing the rates.

City Manager David Flowers said the revenue from the fire assessment pays about 30% of the fire department’s budget.

Finance Director Rick Helms said the fire assessment revenue will slightly exceed what the city pays for retirement benefits for its firefighters.

Councilwoman Maria Sutherland said the rest of the money that pays for the fire department comes from the general fund.

Helms said the fire department’s operations is supplemented with general fund dollars.

Sutherland asked if the fire department was within its budget for the fiscal year.

Helms said the fire department will likely be within its budget at the end of the fiscal year.

Councilwoman Brenda Gray asked if the fire assessment was supposed to fully fund the fire department or just a portion of the department?

Helms responded that the fire assessment can fund almost 100% of it. There are certain things that cannot be funded through the fire assessment based on discussions with Chris Rowe.

Rowe has helped the city for many years with the legalities related to the fire assessment.

Flowers said a $20 increase in the annual residential fire assessment is worth about $107,000, additional funding for the fire department.

Helms said the total budget for the fire department is $1,518,834.

After discussion of the city’s budget needs, Mayor Garrett Anderson asked if the council was willing to raise the assessment.

Sutherland said she is willing to raise the rate only if it alleviates the expenses or repairs for something else.

Flowers said for the next council meeting he will provide some options. He will look at the structure of the residential and commercial rates and see what kind of an impact may be felt.

Currently the fire assessment rates are $80 per residential dwelling; commercial at 4.3 cents per square foot; industrial/warehouse at .7 cents per square foot; and governmental/institutional at 1.8 cents per square foot.

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