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Fire district looks for new options for empty lot assessments

August 15, 2018
By MELISSA BILL ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

The Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District continues to evaluate ways to amend legislation to change the way empty lots are assessed.

Presently these lots are assessed a fraction of the cost that residential and commercial properties pay and they tend to create fire hazards, officials said.

"We are still working with our attorneys to find other options for this type of property assessment. Currently the fee is $21 for an empty lot and there are about 91,000 of them in Lehigh. Most residents feel that they are more of a burden than other types of properties," said Fire Chief Robert DiLallo at the district's monthly meeting on July 31.

The commissioners also voted in favor of raising the current fee assessment to meet increased needs for essential services. A couple years ago residents voted in favor of the district's assessment methodology from ad valorem to a non-ad valorem system to counteract a free-fall in property values and stabilize district's finances during the Great Recession.

"Our fees don't go up with ad valorem because it's not a tax. It's a max of the average of the growth income rate. The assessment could possibly go up to 4.42 percent for the upcoming fiscal year 2018-2019. This was just a preliminary motion to put it on the calendar for a vote in October," explained DiLallo.

According to DiLallo, non-ad valorem increases are limited to the average annual growth in personal income in Florida.

That formula allowed a 4.1 percent increase in the previous fiscal year.

"Ad valorem tax (valuation) just went up to 9 percent recently, just to give you an idea of the difference between the two," said DiLallo.

Under new business, the board voted in favor on a proposal to authorize construction equipment parking at the fire district's station 102 at 44 Homestead Road in Lehigh Acres.

This authorizes Stevens & Layton, Inc. Civil Construction Contractors the authority to park machinery and equipment on the land owned by the district.

"This was just a basic agreement that would allow the people doing the roadwork on Homestead to use our station's lot for parking during this part of their project," said DiLallo.

The board of commissioners also voted in favor on a proposal to transfer account funds to Water Walker Investments.

"We have a few accounts gaining more interest on our money. One is doing better, so we wanted to transfer it over but must get board's approval first," said DiLallo.

The Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District's board of commissioners next meeting will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 5 p.m.

Meeting are open to the public and held inside Station 104, at 3102 16th Street SW, Lehigh Acres.



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