The Sun Beam Times has learned directly from St. Petersburg City Council Member Jim Kennedy that he is working on a plan to resurrect the Fire Fee that was resoundingly defeated two weeks ago. The Councilman stated that he will offer a new version of “his” fire fee to the City Council at the final budget meeting on Thursday night at the City Council meeting. No further details were available but look for exemptions of some groups, partial dipping into city reserves and other fancy footwork to get this passed. Citizens will need to show up Thursday night to stop both this fire fee AND the proposed $10 million property tax hike passed tentatively last week.
The citizens of St. Petersburg should be most concerned because this is another way for the city to drain money from the local economy. Last year they added a Red Light Camera Fee. That will grow. With a fire fee there would be another revenue source that could be adjusted up. From there, is it going to be long before there is a “police fee”, or a “park fee” or a “street Fee” or a “city council new chair upholstery fee”?
This is not unprecedented as there are cities in America where dozens of taxes and fees are part of the routine costs of living in the city. For instance, the city of Missoula Montana property owners pay dozens of taxes designated for things lie weed control, health, aging and the like. For instance, this sample publicly available tax bill form Missoula Montana shows 48 taxes on one bill (full size below)! Council member Charles Gerdes pointed out the danger of setting a precedent for new and expanding taxes with this new fire fee. So citizens will need to be crystal clear at the Microphone Thursday night: no tax hike, no fire fee, cuts spending and use reserves for now if needed.