Latest tax hike plan would pay for police, fire stations

By JOHN BOZZO
Staff Writer

Last update: 17 June 2003


DAYTONA BEACH -- Property owners who saw taxes skyrocket this year and face another possible hike next year may also be asked to pay the bill for new police and fire stations.

Plans for a property tax that would pay for construction of a new police headquarters and two fire stations are on the City Commission's agenda again tonight, two weeks after commissioners postponed action to get more information.

"We're trying to correct existing deficiencies," said Paul McKitrick, deputy city manager. "We're trying to construct for future needs."

Voters would have to approve the proposal -- which could add $60 to $66 annually to the city property tax bill for owners of a home with taxable value of $100,000 -- in a referendum in November's election.

The City Commission already hiked property taxes 25.5 percent this year to cope with rising costs, and administrators were planning to ask for another increase -- as high as 5 percent -- in next year's budget.

But that extra 5 percent would not cover the costs of the police and fire stations.

Commissioners remain divided on the plan going into tonight's meeting.

"We have got to look forward to our needs in the 21st century," said Commissioner Charles Cherry, who supports the plan.

But other commissioners balk at the added taxes.

"I just can't see asking the taxpayers to pick up another cost on their bill until we get a budget on line," Commissioner Mike Shallow said.

Commissioner George Burden said, "I'd rather do some more study and planning for this need than take action now and spend scarce resources."

Tonight the commission plans to consider buying an old school building on South Ridgewood Avenue for $610,000 and converting it, at a cost of about $3.5 million, to house firefighting operations now at Beach Street and Orange Avenue.

Proposals for the old fire station include re-use as a restaurant or fire station museum. The old station is too small for administrative staff and modern fire trucks, city officials said.

But Commissioner Rick Shiver, a retired firefighter, said, "I still don't see the need to move the old fire station."

Commissioners tonight will also consider proposals to build a fire station on the west side of the city and a new police station. Several sites are proposed for the police station, including expanding the current site.

City administrators say police have outgrown their station at 990 Orange Ave. They also say a new fire station is needed to serve growing areas on the west side of the city along Interstate 95 and the Ladies Professional Golf Association development.

Commissioner Yvonne Scarlett-Golden supports the plans. "We need to start thinking of growth in the future."

But Mayor Bud Asher said he doesn't want to commit the city to buying any property until voters approve paying for it.

"I don't think that's too smart," he said.

Commissioner Darlene Yordon said she had not yet made up her mind about the plan.

The City Commission meets at 7 tonight at City Hall, 301 S. Ridgewood Ave.

john.bozzo@news-jrnl.com