By MARC VALERO
AVON PARK — Amid Monday night’s budget discussions, the City Council, by a 3-2 tally, voted down a previously approved increase in the fire assessment.
On July 29, The City Council first voted 3-2 against raising the fire assessment by 30% with Mayor Garrett Anderson and Deputy Mayor Jim Barnard voting “yes.”
Then the City Council approved a 40% increase in the fire assessment with Councilman Stanley Spurlock and Councilwoman Brenda Gray voting “no.”
On Monday, Councilwoman Maria Sutherland voted “no” along with Spurlock and Gray to vote the 40% increase down, keeping the annual residential fee at $80 instead of increasing it to $112.
The other categories were also set to go up 40%, but now will remain with 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.
With the fire assessment increase defeated, Finance Director Rick Helms said the budget will have to be adjusted with the fund balance (reserves) being utilized to balance the budget, or they will have to find another $160,000 to cut out of the budget.
Barnard suggested a 30% increase in the fire assessment, but Anderson said if there was no interest from those who voted “no” there would be no point in doing it.
Sutherland said the board is still looking at the budget and there is a $1.3 million difference between the budget proposed at the workshops and the latest budget proposal.
She initially voted for the 40% increase believing it would go toward the purchase of a needed brush truck, but she was informed right after the vote that the money from the city’s infrastructure fund would be paying for the brush truck, Sutherland said.
Helms said the fire assessment had an additional constraint — the assessment must be approved and certified, if there is any increase, by Sept. 15, which is different from the budget.
City Manager David Flowers said, “I am pretty sure it (fire assessment) won’t go up.”