A fair and necessary fee

Fire chief's proposed increase appears reasonable

When North Port Fire Chief Bill Taaffe speaks, the city commissioners listen. Taaffe's clear, calm voice is helping lead to safer fiscal ground.

At a workshop last week, the commissioners indicated that they will vote June 27 to raise the annual fee that North Port homeowners pay to the Fire and Rescue District.

The city's current flat $75 fee isn't enough, said Taaffe, who has helped pull his department out of a fiscal hole the past couple of years.

In recent months, Taaffe repeatedly told the city's Growth Committee that populatiion growth has increased the need for more emergency personnel, equipment and facilities. North Port issued more than 3,000 building permits in 2004.

On Tuesday, Taaffe recommended a fee structure that would help ease its impact for people in moderate-size homes.

For the owners of homes of 1,500 square feet or less, the fee would rise just to $78 next year, $93 in 2007 and $110 in 2008.

For homes over 1,500 feet, 5 cents would be charged for each additional square foot. So, the owner of an 1,800-square-foot home would pay a $93 fee next year.

The logic behind the math is that the larger the home, the more effort that firefighters must expend.

The proposed increase in the Fire and Rescue District fee comes as city commissioners are reassessing the tax and fee structure in light of the city's rapid growth.

The commissioners deserve praise for their willingness to increase the fire district fee for the first time since 1997 -- and for listening to a persuasive fire chief who looks out for financially strapped residents.