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Ormond Beach Observer Monday, Aug. 5, 2019 4 months ago

Ormond Beach property tax raise will pay for two new fire trucks

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The proposed tax rate is 3.36% above rollback.
by: Jarleene Almenas News Editor

With the city's 20-year-old reserve fire engines being in service 54% of the time, Ormond Beach Fire Chief Richard Sievers knew it was time for a change.

That change included getting two new trucks to replace them, though at the first budget workshop held on June 4, that seemed unlikely. At that time, it didn't gain enough support from the commission. But at the budget workshop on July 30, the commission gave staff direction to move forward with a 3.36% property tax increase to fund the lease purchases of both fire trucks, as well as two additional police vehicles. 

“That was the vision of where we needed to go," Sievers said. "I’m just so glad that [the commission] bought into that and understood where Ormond Beach should be.”

The first budget hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 4, at City Hall. The proposed millage for the upcoming fiscal year is 4.22 mills, meaning the city will collect $4.22 for every $1,000 of taxable property value. The proposed tax rate is 3.36% above rollback, though Ormond Beach Finance Director Kelly McGuire said the average resident — who has a homestead exemption on his or her property — will see a decrease in property taxes regardless. Businesses are likely to pay more taxes, she said.

The commission's decision to allocate a percentage of millage toward public safety vehicles isn't a one-year affair.

“That’ll carry on until the commission decides to do something else with it," McGuire said.

This move isn't an unusual one for the city; Ormond Beach has dedicated millage to help replace vehicles and road resurfacing. However, the added millage (0.058 mills above the initially proposed 4.162) will only be used for public safety vehicle replacement. 

The city hopes this will help initiate a replacement schedule for the Fire Department's vehicles, which unlike the Police Department, had been nonexistent prior to this budget. That's common, Sievers said. Many cities got rid of replacement schedules for fire apparatuses after the recession.

Ormond Beach Mayor Bill Partington said this is a "smart way to budget" because it means dedicated millage funds will be available when it's time to purchase new vehicles in the future. Should the city have purchased the trucks out of reserves, it could have affected a future commission who lacked the reserve funds to do the same, Partington said.

“It could be a precarious situation down the road," Partington said.

The mayor added that if the city had not needed the fire trucks, the commission might've chosen to go to rollback.

“[Fire trucks] just have a lifespan. You don’t want to keep a unit for 20 years that’s running emergency calls.”

Ormond Beach Fire Chief Richard Sievers

“But because we felt strongly about the need to provide those quality vehicles for our departments, our first responders, we’re going to be just a little bit above rollback," Partington said.

The city last bought two fire trucks in 2018 and 2015. 

During the budget workshop, City Commissioner Dwight Selby mentioned an incident that happened a few weeks ago where a person was involved in a crash on A1A. The individual was trapped underneath a vehicle, and the responding Ormond Beach fire truck was unable to help them immediately.

Sievers said the extrication equipment on the truck was over 30 years old, and was out of service. The equipment was so old the Fire Department couldn't get replacement parts for it either, he added. The local firefighters had to wait for Daytona Beach Fire Department to aid them, and that's something Sievers said residents don't deserve to have happen to them.

“[Fire trucks] just have a lifespan," Sievers said. "You don’t want to keep a unit for 20 years that’s running emergency calls.”

The departure of the old reserve trucks isn't the last step in bringing the agency up to date. Sievers said they have a couple of 50-year-old fire brush trucks that will need to be replaced soon. The Fire Department will also be placing structural gear on a replacement schedule, as well as working to keep up with new technology.

While it will take the Fire Department about 10-12 months to get the new trucks, which will come fully equipped, Sievers said he was pleased with the direction the department is heading in.

“It’s just got us on the path a little bit earlier," Sievers said.

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