NEW: Why West Palm is doubling its annual fire fee Oct. 1


Highlights

West Palm Beach doubles fire fee to pay for vehicles and safety gear

West Palm Beach homeowners will see their annual fee for fire service double to $50, starting Oct. 1.

The city commission voted unanimously Monday to raise the fee from $25 for homes and to double the fee commercial property owners pay based on the size of their buildings.

The city estimates the increases will raise $2.1 million to offset costs of a bigger, busier department.

The Fire Service Assessment Fee, though separate from property taxes, will be included on residential and commercial property tax bills.

The fee was first adopted in 2008 and has not increased since then. West Palm’s population has increased, though, from 99,000 to 105,000, and call volume to the fire department has risen 46 percent during the past 10 years.

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City officials said the money will be used for maintenance of the fire trucks and equipment and the acquisition of safety gear, hoses and trucks for new Fire Stations 4 and 8, which are under construction.

The department has grown to 246 employees, with 40 firefighters added since 2013 with the help of grants. Public safety — police and fire — account for the biggest part of the city budget.

City Finance Director Mark Parks said despite the doubled fee, West Palm Beach charges much less than comparable South Florida municipalities.

By comparison, Boca Raton charges $125, Boynton Beach, $120, Coral Springs, $180, Deerfield Beach $175 and Fort Lauderdale, $256, he said.

Non-residential buildings in West Palm pay by the square foot. Nursing homes, for example, will pay 20 cents per foot, institutional properties pay 8 cents, industrial and warehouse properties pay 2 cents and commercial properties pay 6 cents per square foot.

Follow Tony Doris on Twitter at https://Twitter.com/TonyDoris



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