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Belleair Bee
Fire district voters to decide fate of taxing plan
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INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – The Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to put a resolution on the Nov. 2 ballot that would change the way it taxes residents for fire service.

The resolution asks for the elimination of the $190 yearly flat rate tax on residences and replaces it with a rate of 17 cents per square foot. If approved by voters, the change would take effect in November of 2005.

Before the unanimous vote was taken, however, commissioner Bob McEwen motioned to clear up the language of the resolution itself. He pointed out that the current wording treated condominiums and apartments differently than single-family residences. Condominiums and apartments would still pay the $190 flat tax, regardless of their size or location, while single-family residences would have to pay by square footage.

“It makes no sense to treat condominiums differently than houses,” McEwen said. “If it goes in like this, it will leave $2 million condos paying only $190 and much smaller dwellings paying more than that. The concept is supposed to be fairer taxation.”

With the rest of the board in agreement, McEwen motioned to change the wording so that single-family residencies were defined as any place where people live, including condominiums, apartments, hotel owner’s quarters, mobile home lots where owners reside and recreational vehicle lots where owners reside.

When chairman Tom Hafner opened the floor for discussion, citizens attending the meeting demanded a clearer definition of what exactly would be taxed. Many were confused about what would be considered part of the square footage when computing the tax and where recreational areas or unconnected car garages belonging to condominium complexes, but not individual owners, would fall.

“We need a call to define what exactly will be taxed because you say you know,” said Indian Rocks Beach commissioner Bill Ockunzzi. “Most people think it is only the air-conditioned area.”

Ockunzzi presented numerous situations that cause confusion in terms of square footage.

Attorney Jeff Albinson responded that the tax assessor is the one who assesses each unit and how much that unit is charged.

“The method of computation of square footage that we used in the past will continue to be used,” Albinson said. “It is already a part of history.”

The board also decided to have the fire chief’s performance evaluation Wednesday, Aug. 11, and present the results Tuesday, Aug. 17.
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