Fire fees in Springfield could be on the way up, after city council members agreed to move forward with an ordinance that increases those charges.
Council members are expected to offer a final approval of the new fire fees at their next meeting, Dec. 11, after they were presented with several options on the fees.
“It’s something that has to be done,” said city manager Brett Bennett. “It’s just a matter of which option.”
Currently, the city’s fire fees are $35 a year for residential structures and $50 for non-residential structures. Those fees have been in place since the mid-1990s, according to Bennett.
The new fees are projected to be $55 a year for residences and $225 for non-residential structures. Bennett said the fire fees should carry the burden of the cost of fire protection in the city.
The proposed fee for residences is “significantly lower” than most places, Bennett said, as is a $250 fee for non-residential structures that was considered.
The first option for council members was a $55 fee for residences and a $250 fee for non-residential structures. That fee would raise an expected $105,795 and is the same as the county’s fee structure, Bennett told council members.
Another choice, called option B, would carry the same fees but also would have applied the fire fee to tax-exempt buildings, bringing in $124,565 a year, if approved. The fire fees backed by council, known as option C, and option B would meet the city’s budget requirements for the fire department, Bennett said. Option C will bring in $116,965 in revenue.
A fourth option kept the residential fee at $35 and raised the non-residential fire fee to $250, charging tax-exempt structures for the fire fee. That option would generate $106,905 a year. The city has 73 tax-exempt non-residential structures to provide fire protection.
Springfield Fire Chief Travis Zitterour estimated the city needed to bring in $110,000 to cover its share of its fire budget. Bennett said any shortfall may have to be covered out of the city’s general fund.
“We’re responsible for 35 percent of the fire department’s budget, and it is subject to change each year, based on call load,” said council member Kenny Usher.
Previously, the city’s fire fee was assessed on utility bills and was split up over 12 months.
“If you got a water bill, you got a fire fee,” Usher said.
The city may now put the fire fee on its annual tax bill to property owners. Vacant buildings that had water cut off weren’t getting billed for fire fees under the old plan.