Fire Assessment Information

In 2018, the Highlands County Board of County Commissioners approved a Countywide Fire Services special assessment to provide a dedicated and more stable source of funding for one of the County’s core services.

The special assessment is a dedicated source of funding used to pay for Fire Services within the unincorporated portions of Highlands County and the Town of Lake Placid. The special assessment is used to fund all aspects of the County’s fire service program, including paid firefighters, volunteer firefighter incentives, related facilities, apparatus, equipment, and programs. The Countywide Fire Services special assessment replaces the Special Benefit District fire assessment which residents previously paid within the 10 individual taxing districts.

Picture of wildfireThe Countywide Fire Services special assessment is a non-ad valorem special assessment. Funding Fire Services through a special assessment ensures that all property owners that benefit from the service share in the cost of the service. Each property owner pays their proportional share of the costs for the service. Utilizing an assessment program creates a more reliable funding source that does not fluctuate with economic cycles and housing prices.

Historically, the County has utilized a predominantly volunteer fire service.  In fiscal year 2018, the Board made it a priority to provide an enhanced level of services to its citizens and committed to transitioning to a combination paid and volunteer fire service.

The first phase of the transition will include 4 paid fire stations staffed around the clock with paid firefighters, working in combination with volunteers.  The current goal is to hire 36 full time firefighters within the first three (3)years.

The Countywide Fire Services budget for fiscal year 2019 is $xxx and includes xx paid firefighters. 

What is the purpose of the Countywide fire services special assessment?

Why did the County establish a Countywide fire services special assessment?

Is the level of fire services provided to citizens changing?

What is the difference between a special assessment for fire services and the property taxes collected by the County?

Do other governments have a "Fire Assessment Program" to fund fire services?

What period does the fire services special assessment cover and when will the assessment be payable?

What is the fire assessment amount for improved property based on?

Does the fire services special assessment take into account different service levels in the County?

Who actually pays the special assessments?

What will happen if I do not pay the fire services special assessment?

I don't pay taxes now due to homestead exemption. Will I have to pay the fire services special assessments?

I receive a discount for early payment of my taxes. Will I receive the same discount for my fire services special assessment?

Where can I get more information?