Proposed Martin Co. fire services fee rejected

Proposed Martin Co. fire services fee rejected

Martin County Commissioners Tuesday extinguished a proposed fee for fire services.  Even though the word "tax" wasn't in the propsal, many residents felt that's exactly what this was.

Before the Commissioners voted, there was more than three hours of public comment on the issue.  Many called the fee unfair, and one man said it was 'underhanded'.

The proposed fee, would have been $151 per home, with varying rates for commercial properties, institutional properties, and warehouses based on square footage.

There is concern among local governments, and the agencies that work within them, that if Amendment 1 passes this November, the added homestead exemption, it will lead to a lot less revenue for the governments and these agencies.

Chief Bill Schoebel with Martin Fire-Rescue says it equates to a 2 million dollar reduction for his agency.  He added while they brought this fee ahead as a good faith measure to be proactive with their budget, he senses less trust between government and the taxpayers.

"It's very disappointing to me.  It shows to me there's a lot of repair that needs to happen in the community," said Chief Schoebel.

Commission Chairman Ed Ciampi said in the end, he was having a tough time justifying how commercial properties would have taken the biggest hit.

"Landlords and property owners would have to push those fees and increased expenses to their tenants. Then their tenants to their customers," said Ciampi.

Chairman Ciampi stressed the county is not desperate for money for Fire-Rescue, but they were looking at a different mechanism to give them consistent funding.

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