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Date of Issue: April 22, 2009

WMFR eyes 2 percent rate hike

The West Manatee Fire Rescue District board will set a fire assessment rate at its May 21 meeting that is likely to be at least a 2 percent increase from the current assessment.

At the board’s April 16 meeting, WMFR Chief Andy Price said he will bring a preliminary budget of about $5.5 million to the May board meeting for discussion.

“There’s not going to be a lot of fluff,” Price said, but there are other issues to consider in the upcoming budget.

“We also have to think of the following year, and we have to think of our staff and maintenance of equipment,” he said.

“With a $5.5 million budget, we will need at least an increase of 2 percent to balance it,” Price added.

Under Florida law, the district can only raise its assessment as much as the annual personal income growth, which for the upcoming fiscal year has been set at 7.1 percent.

Price said he hopes the assessment does not have to be raised the maximum, but unlike other fire districts in Manatee County, the WMFRD has not seen revenues increase in recent years.

“There is no room for growth,” the chief said. In fact, the district has lost some of its coverage area in recent years due to annexation by Bradenton.

With no increase in revenues, Price said it’s “going to be a lean budget year.” Without any stimulus money from the federal government, “We are going to have a lot of belt-tightening.”

Price invited the public to attend the May 21 meeting for comment on the preliminary budget.

In other business, Price said only one company attended the pre-request for proposals meeting on a facilities study.

However, Price learned that a company that circulates RFP notices to companies that perform studies did not send out any information about the WMFRD proposal.

He said he contacted the company and they have circulated the district’s RFP to appropriate companies.

If there is no increase in response, the board might want to re-advertise, he said.