PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — The Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue Department is at risk of dissolving.

“Over time our expenses have gone up and up and up. We’ve been having to cover the difference with our savings account and our reserve. Our reserves are at a critically low level,” Fire Chief Jeffrey Davidson explained.

The department serves families in Belleair Beach, Belleair Shore, Indian Rocks Beach, Indian Shores and Oakhurst. Currently, homeowners in those areas pay a flat fee of $360 annually for the service.

Davidson says an ad valorem tax—which is up for voter approval—is a revenue source that will adjust with property values and permanently address funding issues.

If approved, the department will be authorized to levy an annual ad valorem tax at a millage rate not to exceed 0.67 mills. Homeowners will pay $67 a year per $100,000 in taxable value, in addition to the $360 flat fee.

According to department leaders, based on 2022 values, the average additional cost for residential properties will be:

  • Belleair Beach – $337.21
  • Belleair Shore – $2,319.66
  • Indian Rocks Beach – $269.18
  • Indian Shores – $284.28
  • Oakhurst – $108.39

Davidson worries that without the new tax, the department will run out of money by 2025.

“Eventually they’ll realize that the response times won’t be met and a new station would have to be built and the taxpayers would pay for that. It would be after we’re long gone,” he said.

The chief says money from the tax will be used to maintain firefighter personnel, purchase needed equipment and address station needs.

In July, Commissioner David Gardella voted against putting forth a referendum. Gardella said he doesn’t want the department to dissolve, and wants to preserve the current tax structure and increase assessment rates.

The referendum is the last item voters will see on their ballots.

For more information, email info@psfrd.org, call 595-1117 ext. 100 or visit www.psfrd.org/referendum or Facebook.com/PSFRD.