Brevard Commission Approves Fire Fee Hikes, Blocks 24-Hour Liquor Sales

Taxpayers in the unincorporated county of Brevard will see their annual fire costs increase by 29% in November.

The Brevard County Commission on Tuesday approved a 33% increase in the county’s fire rating, offset by the equivalent of 4% of current annual royalty revenue with federal dollars allocated through law. US bailout.

The U.S. Congress passed the stimulus package in March as part of a $1.9 trillion follow-up to last year’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (or CARES) Act. . Brevard County is expected to receive about $118 million through the legislation, with the first half due early next month.

As part of Tuesday’s vote, commissioners pledged about $8.5 million of the stipend to cushion the impact of the fee hike, the largest since the current fire assessment framework was created in 2008 .

The commission last approved a 6% increase in 2018.

Only homes and businesses in the unincorporated county of Brevard will be affected, along with those in four municipalities that rely on the county for fire services: Grant-Valkaria, Melbourne Village, Palm Shores and West Melbourne.

The effective 29% increase means the average Brevard homeowner with a single-family home or condo between 1,400 and 1,800 square feet will see their annual fire costs increase by $57.03, or about $4.75 per year. month, for a total annual valuation of $253.67.

Commissioners had considered up to a 35% increase, but reduced it to 33% at the suggestion of Commission President Rita Pritchett, who favored a lower 29% option also under consideration.

The commitment to offset the hike with stimulus funds removed the remaining 4% for an effective rate increase of 29%. Federal dollars will cover the difference through 2028, according to county staff.

The resolution was approved 4-1. Only Commissioner John Tobia voted against raising fees to double digits.

“I’m not going to support an increase that’s somewhere between … 2,300 and 2,800 percent above (the consumer price index),” Tobia said. “I don’t think now is the time to institute a fee increase of this magnitude, certainly on citizens at the same time.”

Commissioners said the increase was necessary to reverse a decade of deficit spending, during which Brevard County Fire Rescue covered rising expenses by dipping into its reserve fund.

That contingency fund is now “depleted,” Brevard County Public Safety Director Matthew Wallace previously said, leaving the agency with no other way to maintain its salaries or capital investments.

Salaries for firefighters have fallen among the lowest in the region, leading to high attrition rates and outsized overtime spending to fill staffing gaps, while service demands have increased, Wallace said.

Voting booths for the sale of alcohol 24 hours a day

The county commission on Tuesday filed a vote that would have allowed 24-hour liquor sales in unincorporated Brevard after Commissioner Bryan Lober expressed reservations.

At a public hearing on Tuesday, Lober raised concerns that unrestricted hours of sale could lead to drunk drivers on the road at the same time students were heading to school. , potentially putting children and families at risk.

He suggested limiting unrestricted hours to Fridays and Saturdays, with a cutoff at 4:30 a.m. early Monday.

The amendment was met with skepticism, but Commissioner Curt Smith proposed deferring the vote until the next committee meeting to give Lober time to gather data to support his concern.

The committee agreed, voting 4-1 to postpone the final vote until the May 6 meeting. Commissioner John Tobia, who proposed to repeal the sales restrictions, voted against the motion.

If ultimately passed, the amended ordinance would eliminate the current 2 a.m. cutoff for liquor sales in unincorporated parts of the county.

This would not affect restrictions in Brevard towns and villages, which regulate their own liquor sales.

Eric Rogers is FLORIDA TODAY’s political and government reporter. Please consider subscribing to support important local news on government, business, crime and other topics that interest you.

Contact Rogers at 321-242-3717 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @EricRogersFT.

Aurora J. William