By Jay Meisel
ST. LUCIE COUNTY - Some St. Lucie County property owners will see a reduction in property taxes they pay to the St. Lucie County Fire District.
The district's board of commissioners decided this month to keep the tax rate the same, despite a reduction in property values.
Gary Perdue, clerk/treasurer of the district, said the tax rate of $2.65 per $1,000 of assessed property value would have had to be increased to $2.71 per $1,000 of property value to bring in the same amount of revenue.
With the adopted rate, an owner of an $85,000 home with a $50,000 homestead exemption will pay $92.75 to the district, he said.
Their bill will have dropped from last year if their property value was lowered, he said.
The district's general fund budget will increase from $59 million to $62 million.
Mr. Perdue said the district used about $8 million in reserves to reduce the impact of the lower property tax revenue.
Even with that, he said, the district was forced to make cuts, he said.
That included not filling four vacant non-firefighter employees positions, including billing clerks and human resource technicians, he said.
The district also had to reduce the number of firefighter employees at each station from five to four.
However, rather than laying off firefighters, the district achieved it through attrition, Mr. Perdue said. When positions became vacant they weren't filled, he added.
In the past, one firefighter at a station was in charge of deployments, he said. Now everyone has to share all the responsibilities, he said.
"It puts quite a lot more on the backs of our firefighters when they do respond," he said.
During the last several years, he said, the number of employees has dropped.