INDIAN ROCKS BEACH, Fla. — Tuesday was election day in Pinellas County and one of the biggest issues on the ballot was a tax assessment to help fund the fire rescue district that responds to miles of the county’s coastal communities.
Voters approved the measure with 52.92% of the constituents voting yes to a $100 annual increase for homeowners and businesses..
The Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District is a district that serves Indian Rocks Beach, Indian Shores and Belleair Shore and Bellaire Beach.
The vote means single family homeowners will go from paying $260 to $360. Commercial business owners will go from $286 to $386.
The Pinellas Suncoast Fire Rescue has been tapping into their reserve fund to continue operating. Fire Chief Mike Burton says several of the trucks and equipment used by the rescue’s three fire stations are past their prime. All three stations are also not up to code for severe weather, meaning firefighters have to evacuate during tropical storms and hurricanes.
The Pinellas Suncoast Fire District hasn’t increased taxes since 2008.
Voters approved a measure in a 2016 referendum that allowed the district to levy a new tax increase, but a circuit court judge ruled in September 2017 that the wording of the referendum was confusing and not valid. The district board of commissioners declined to appeal the ruling.
The higher rates will kick in at the beginning of the 2020 fiscal year.