LEHIGH ACRES, Fla.- People in Lehigh Acres are reacting to news that the fire district may ask approval of a special assessment to raise money. The cash would fill a hole in next year's budget, after a $4.5 million federal grant runs out. Without another revenue source, the district fears possible layoffs of some of the 111 firefighters.
"I think they need the money, we need the crews out in the field. I know those brushfires can spread very fast, and I am willing to pay for the services," said Lehigh homeowner Mike Farrar.
"You must have the crews, you must have the fire coverage. So if it means we pay some more, fine," Farrar said.
The district cannot raise the tax rate, it's already set at the highest level allowed by law.
Fire commissioners on May 19 will be asked to appoint members of a committee to study the possible assessment. The amount is not known. Several years ago, Lehigh kicked around the idea of asking for a 100-dollar per property fee.
Commissioner Kevin Shea opposes the idea. "I don't know of a single person who wants to or can afford to pay another tax, on top of property taxes. We have to look at reorganization and use of volunteers to solve the budget shortfall," he told WINK.
The district laid off 34 firefighters a couple of years ago. Then, it got a federal grant that allowed it to maintain the current staff levels of 111 firefighters.
Supporters have suggested the vote could occur on the same day as the Presidential Primary next winter. Voters would have to approve any special fire assessment.