The village of Wesley Chapel wants to make sure proposed fire districts don’t create higher taxes.
The Wesley Chapel village council held a joint session with county commissioners Wednesday, Nov. 2, with the future of fire services as one of the main topics.
“The approval of the new (Wesley Chapel) fire station depended on the current tax base,” Wesley Chapel Mayor Brad Horvath said. “Any changes to district lines could cause a tax increase on our side.”
The Providence fire department needs funding in place for the budget year starting July 1, 2012. To do that, Weddington agreed last month to create a municipal fire district, meaning the town would be responsible for drawing the fire lines and signing contracts with different departments to cover the area. The new maps, presented by Providence, doubles their coverage area, to include most of Weddington. Providence would take $940 million worth of property from the Wesley Chapel district.
Currently Providence has an estimated $734 million worth of property in their district. Combined, that would give them a tax base of $1.67 billion.
Losing property is what concerns Wesley Chapel, as the fire department is in the middle of building a new fire station, a move planned for by determining how much they would bring in through fire taxes, with a tax base currently worth $5.46 billion. If some of those neighborhoods are taken away to build a larger Providence department, the Wesley Chapel fire department would have to increase its tax rate in order to pay its debt, and village council members don’t see as fair. County commissioners on the other hand, feel a merger is still the best step.
“Somebody is gonna lose if we don’t get a merger,” county commissioner and fire commission liasion Jonathan Thomas said. “There’s just a lot of players at the table right now.”
Thomas and fellow commissioner Todd Johnson pointed out a merger was the recommended step in the county’s fire study. But merger talks are pretty much dead at the present, with both departments raising issues.
“The system is broken, we are preparing to handle that funding issue in 2012,”Thomas said. “The issues didn’t occur overnight and we won’t be able to fix them overnight.”