The Highlands County Board of County Commissioners is considering a Special Assessment for Fire Services to provide a dedicated and more stable source of funding for one of the County’s core services.
This Countywide Fire Services special assessment will be a dedicated source of funding used to pay for Fire Services within the unincorporated portions of Highlands County and the Town of Lake Placid. The special assessment will be used to fund all aspects of the County’s fire service program, including paid firefighters, volunteer firefighter incentives, related facilities, apparatus,
equipment, and programs. The Countywide Fire Services special assessment will replace the Special Benefit District fire assessment which residents currently pay within ten individual taxing districts.
The Fire Services special assessment would be a non-ad valorem special assessment. Funding Fire Services through a special assessment ensures that all property owners that benefit from the service share in the cost of the service. Each property owner would pay their proportional share of the costs for the service. Utilizing an assessment program creates a more reliable funding source that does not fluctuate with economic cycles and housing prices.
The County currently utilizes a predominantly volunteer fire service. The Board has made it a priority to provide an enhanced level of services to its citizens and is committed to transitioning to a combination paid and volunteer fire service.
The first phase of the transition will include 4 paid fire stations that are staffed around the clock with paid firefighters, working in combination with volunteers. The Board of County Commissioners has appointed a special committee to provide systemic guidance to the Board. The current goal is to hire 36 fulltime firefighters within the first three years.
The Countywide Fire Services budget is estimated at $7,527,943. To maintain four (4) paid fire stations and the personnel, apparatus, equipment, training, public education, safety inspections and other programs provided by Fire Services. The Board will fund the majority of the Fire Services budget through the special assessment.
We have created a look-up tool to help our citizens view what the anticipated rate will be for their property. Use the Tax Parcel (including dashes) provided in the letter you received here to view the projected assessment in the event the Fire Services special assessment is approved.