Escambia May Raise Sales Tax To Fund Fire Services, Replacing Property Assessment

May 13, 2022

Escambia County may increase the sales tax rate to fund fire services, rather than continuing the current system of an assessment for property owners.

During a discussion meeting Thursday morning, Commissioner Jeff Bergosh introduced the idea of boosting the sales tax rate by a half-penny or three-quarters of a penny.

The county’s budget office presented four options to pay for increased service costs in the form of varying the current fee property tax, which currently stands at $125 for most non-commercial property. Under the four proposals a new fire tax based upon property value would make up the difference needed to create at least $6 million in additional revenue to provide necessary funding and reduce subsidies from the general fund.

But under the sales tax avenue presented by Bergosh, the property assessment would go away.

“There are a lot of people struggling still, and I don’t want to raise their property taxes one penny,” Bergosh said. “And I won’t vote to do so.” He said a big part of the sales tax revenue would fall upon visitors that don’t live in Escambia County and don’t pay the fire tax, despite using emergency services.

Voters would be required to approve any sale tax increase, likely on the November ballot if the proposal moves forward.

“Let the citizens decide if this is important enough for them to pay an additional half cent sales tax,” Commissioner Doug Underhill said, adding that he would not support an increase on property owners. He said that as a voter, he would probably not support the sales tax, but as a commissioner he would be supportive of allowing the citizens to choose.

“Sales tax adversely affects poor people and poor consumers because they don’t own property; they rent,” Commissioner Lumon May said. “They are the greatest consumer because they spend and don’t save, and, unfortunately it is more of a burden on a low income person.”

“It’s the taxpaying property owner in Escambia County that always foots the bill. I kind of like spreading it around and making sure everyone pays,” Bergosh said.

Underhill said if he supports a tax, it would be in the form of sales tax because the consumer decides how aggressive their consumption, or spending, will be.

“People don’t decide their consumption based on their basic needs – food, shelter and essentials,” May said. “They have to eat; they have to buy the basic essentials to survive in the world. When you do apply that sales tax, it adversely affects someone who is trying to make ends meet.”

Preliminary projections show a half-cent sales tax would generate about $25 million for fire services in Escambia County after total funding is shared with the City of Pensacola.

There was no final decision on Thursday. In the coming days, county staff will run an analysis to provide more concrete numbers, and explore any legal issues. The commission will discuss fire services funding further at an upcoming meeting.

Comments

46 Responses to “Escambia May Raise Sales Tax To Fund Fire Services, Replacing Property Assessment”

  1. Alan on May 18th, 2022 4:07 pm

    I’m tired or hearing sales tax hurt the poor. Renter have crap that burns they need to help pay. Same for school taxes there should be at least a 200.00 fee for every child of a renter that goes to a public school. Just because I own a house doesn’t make me rich just responsible., and before you reply no college degree just a hard worker.

  2. No way on May 16th, 2022 8:53 pm

    If the MSBU were dropped, and a sales tax raised, those who are renters will be hit the hardest.

    No landlord is going to reduce rent equivalent to the MSBU elimination. They’ll pocket that money.

    But the renters will now be paying more for taxable goods, especially on cars.

    No renter who does the math should support this effort.

  3. Suzie B on May 15th, 2022 10:03 pm

    Escambia County has a sales tax of 7.5%, correct?
    However, when we buy something for $1.00, we are taxed 8%, obviously rounded up to $1.08. I inquired about that at one point and was told that the business itself gains that extra ½% because there is no other way to designate it.
    If this is true, then maybe we should keep that extra ½% in our county and use it for good. I may be incorrect and received wrong information but this is what I was told. Inquiring minds…

  4. Tax Payer on May 15th, 2022 12:00 pm

    I am a citizen of Escambia County and pay taxes here. While I’m not a fan of increases I do have an expectation of services for Public Safety. I am willing to pay more for expanded/continued services. While sidewalks, street lights, retention ponds, etc. are important they don’t take priority over public safety. The mayor of New York City recently summed it up in an interview discussing infrastructure “if you don’t have public safety you don’t have anything”. Whether it’s New York City or Escambia County, public safety should be the priority and sufficiently funded before the other services. One thing is for sure, our County is missing out on funding for government services without impact fees! One of only a few Counties that don’t have them. This is NOT a sustainable income for fire services but would help offset capitol expenses.

  5. fisherman on May 15th, 2022 10:38 am

    The county needs to build some more boat ramps, the ones we have now are so crowed.

  6. Citizen on May 15th, 2022 1:55 am

    Scott that is what the MSTU would do which is different than the MSBU. With the sales tax, everyone pays for it, not just homeowners and if they get rid of the $125 on the property bill and pass the sales tax they would have more money but more people paying into it. I would prefer the MSTU so expensive properties pay more. The way it is a cheap trailer pays the same as hot millionaire properties.

  7. M in Bratt on May 14th, 2022 6:56 pm

    This tax and spend commission needs to practice what the rest of us are doing; LIVE WITHIN YOUR MEANS. In these lean times new taxes should not even be under consideration. Mr. May seems to be the honest one on this board, he calls himself a democrat. Most of the rest of them purport to be Conservative Republicans, but are in reality RINO’s. Act like the fiscal conservatives you say you are, and pare back spending.

  8. lol on May 14th, 2022 5:31 pm

    All of you caterwauling about taxes also caterwaul when the cavalry shows up later than you want it to.

    In other words–you want your caterwauling problems tended to post haste, but every one else is just looking for “freebies.”

    Hahaha!

  9. Susie Q on May 14th, 2022 4:54 pm

    Sales tax is more equitable, makes more sense.

  10. Frankly on May 14th, 2022 4:22 pm

    Billy J Reed… In just 5 years it’s gone from $800…. To $3200… There is something wrong there… Florida Passed a Constitutional amendment several years ago that your property taxes cannot go more than 3% in any given year… You might want to look into why this has happened!

  11. Frank Smith on May 14th, 2022 3:44 pm

    Umm I remember when Underhill pushed for more taxes. When did he suddenly become anti-tax??

  12. Century Girl on May 14th, 2022 1:57 pm

    In response to Mr Bergosh’s comment…” He said a big part of the sales tax revenue would fall upon visitors that don’t live in Escambia County and don’t pay the fire tax, despite using emergency services.” We, the voters & Residents of Esc Cty, are smarter than that!
    EVERY RESIDENT that SHOPS or makes ANY purchases in Esc Cty, Fl will be paying that extra tax! We are in an Economy that everyone is already struggling with Biden’s economy-
    Gigantic gas hikes, grocery price increases, Electric bills increases after the new company took over! With the price of fuel at $4 plus a gallon, it seems that perhaps the county should look at all of their departments, except fire, police, & ambulance services, try to cut all the Other departments approx 10%..and IF any of those people would be qualified or able to obtain qualification as first responders, then move them to that department.
    Too many small communities are the bedroom communities around the Pensacola area like, Walnut hill, McDavid, Atmore, Bratt, Century, Jay, Cantonment, Pace, Milton & even Mobile & surrounding towns.
    You are elected to office to MANAGE not TAX & SPEND!
    Leave it alone.

  13. SueB on May 14th, 2022 10:01 am

    Cancel the Buss System (bus does not run NW Escambia County) and relocate the 4 percent tax we pay & give fund the fire services.
    PS: The eastern part of Ailanthus Court does not have a fire hydrant & ECUA will not locate funds to install water line. Jeff Bergosh has not responded to my request to locat fund to install Fire Hydrant.

  14. Scott Trotter on May 14th, 2022 9:10 am

    Why not tie the fire property tax to the value of the property. Maybe $1 for every $1000 in property value.

  15. CJ Lewis on May 13th, 2022 11:05 pm

    Four obvious places to reduce county expenses are: 1) reduce extra staff; 2) end non-departmental funding to groups aligned with individual commissioners to include use of commissioner “slush” funds: 3) abolish the CRA that diverts countywide property tax revenues to benefit a small group of property owners: and 4) terminate all EDATEs.

  16. StraightShooter on May 13th, 2022 9:38 pm

    “Retired” you are correct. I was a volunteer fireman for years. We went door to door every year for our budget. We had no county assistance. The first year they implemented the fire tax, it was 5.00 per house. The first year we had more money we had ever had. We had to come up with things to buy to spend all the money. This was in the early 80’s if I remember correctly. Now we are paying 125.00 a year. No government will ever have enough of our money. They will spend it all and demand more.

  17. Citizen on May 13th, 2022 9:28 pm

    I would like the flat fee MSBU of $125 removed from my property tax bill. It is unfair and was a lazy way to get revenue. Remember Barry vot3d against it.Underhill pushed for it several years ago.
    A sales tax would be a better way to get more revenue but based on these comments the voters are too stupid to understand it and will vote no.
    Maybe an MSTU based 9n property value would be more equitable and get rid of the flat fee MSBU.

  18. Well on May 13th, 2022 7:42 pm

    If you don’t want to pay taxes quit expecting services.
    Demand they stop Law Enforcement, Fire Services, Road repairs and other money wasting things immediately.

    LOL……. ECAT is not a money wasting thing. Ha
    It’s a FREEBIE.

  19. Lee on May 13th, 2022 6:56 pm

    Why not some kind of tax for renters? It’s not only property owners who rely on our fire departments.

  20. Billy j Reed on May 13th, 2022 6:36 pm

    How can my property tax go up $1100.00 in one year, when my valve increased only &7000.00……With all of these new homes everywhere In west Pensacola….all this new tax revenue, & yet mine goes up $1100…In just 5 years it’s gone from $800….. To $3200…. greedy commissioners…..now they want to increase taxes again……I hope all the folks in Escambia county understand that if u vote a small tax increase, u will vote on it twice, then it’s permanent. I know that only some folks know that Escambia county has a 6 cents tax on each gallon of gas we all purchase…they tax us every way they can…….enough is never enough……we need better people that know about the use of our taxes……..not Democrats……tax & spend.

  21. Bonnie Exner on May 13th, 2022 6:36 pm

    Totally agree with Jason…1000 new residents are moving to Florida daily..they have sold their homes at a pretty profit, and want to move to FLORIDA where there is no state income tax,great weather( minus hurricane season) and until very recently decent housing prices. Builders/ developers should be assessed an impact fee on each house that is built(2-5%) that can help pay or infrastructure improvements..police fire protection ,emts,schools roads,etc..the developers will inturn pass that expense on to the future home owner instead of relying on those tax paying residents already established here.

  22. Don cooper on May 13th, 2022 4:51 pm

    The sales tax is a wonderful idea. It will pay for things we need and deserve

  23. TAX PAYER on May 13th, 2022 3:22 pm

    WHY NOT JUST WHOLE HOG AND ADD ANOTHER 5-10 CENT SALES TAX.

    DUE AWAY WITH PROPERTY TAX!!!!!!!!!

  24. Klem on May 13th, 2022 3:01 pm

    Thousands of new houses destroying what trees and green spaces are left in Escambia and what’s left of quality of life in Beulah. Industry into Navy field on 9 Mile. Traffic everywhere. Pedestrian overpass on 9 mile. This is the ridiculous “prosperity” the council brings. And now a sales tax increase. Somebody is making money off all this and it isn’t the citizens of Escambia.

    Why – all of a sudden – are fire services underfunded? Where is all the additional property tax from all those new homes going?

  25. No way on May 13th, 2022 2:24 pm

    So, City of Pensacola residents pay city property tax, which covers costs of having a municipal fire department. The City also uses a part of its share of the current one penny local option sales tax, or LOST, to purchase a fire truck or two.

    If the County charges a new sales tax for county fire services, City of Pensacola residents pay for both county fire services AND city fire services.

    The Commission needs to explain to Pensacola City Council how this idea is equitable.

  26. concerned on May 13th, 2022 2:13 pm

    I’ve seen street lights walk ways all sorts of things being built but not enough red lights at intersections . the truth is money is being spent at and alarming rate which should not be spent let’s not over spend rather than there is a need and there is a want. so ask the public before spending everyone’s tax dollars do we really need all these sidewalks or just want them. sure it looks nice for pensacola. so why not let’s just cut back on things we really don’t need . 50 years ago this would have went out the window ain’t gonna happen. all these builders comming into pensacola needs to foot this bill. end of story.

  27. ensley boy on May 13th, 2022 1:06 pm

    Why can’t they split the increase they need? Half could come from real estate taxes and the other half from a sales tax increase. That way no one group has to shoulder the entire fund needed.

  28. None on May 13th, 2022 11:39 am

    Just a thought. Why not bring in good paying jobs rather than just focusing only on the fluctuating tourism industry. How about thinking about us people (the peasants) who live north of Highway 98 for a change.

  29. Susie Q on May 13th, 2022 11:23 am

    The only FAIR way to spread this cost around is to increase the sales tax. Not all poor people ‘rent’. A LOT of them are in government provided or subsidized housing & pay nothing for the services that they utilize. Maybe having to pay more sales tax will light a fire under them to get off the government teet & support themselves, but I highly doubt it~

  30. Susan on May 13th, 2022 10:40 am

    Well, no matter what the commissioners do people will complain as you can already see from the comments posted. I am glad to see Bergosh wants to spread it around and not increase our property taxes at this time. Plus he wants to let the voter decide.
    That is the way it should be. I do see someone suggested the county develop a budget. That is a great suggestion and idea.

  31. anonymous on May 13th, 2022 10:00 am

    So I’m hearing “charge the poor people of Escambia more” because the county can not budget correctly?? Take a look at the % of people living on or at poverty in this county and explain how Escambia can justify increasing taxes to pay for it’s employees….

  32. 10 Mile Road Neighbor on May 13th, 2022 9:32 am

    The article says–”Preliminary projections show a half-cent sales tax would generate about $25 million for fire services”. Over what period of time?? If you do the math, it takes $5 Billion in revenue to generate $25 Million in receipts. Also, how would this 1/2 cent increase be earmarked?? ONLY for Fire Services and not be added back into the General Fund???

  33. retired on May 13th, 2022 9:28 am

    Commissioner May, if you would stop spending money on side walks that they don’t even use (they still walk down the middle of the road). What happened to the all volunteer fire service, they did an out standing job, once a year they knocked on doors for donations.

    I’m tried of paying taxes that i get no benefit from like, school tax (i have never had or will have kids)

  34. fisherman on May 13th, 2022 9:12 am

    If we vote to increase the sales tax by a half-penny or three-quarters of a penny you will still pay the $125 for fire or higher. Government will not not remove the fire fee as they will find a way to keep it.

  35. Joe on May 13th, 2022 8:57 am

    Politicians are the worst they get elected and do good their first term because they are still one of us after their first term they are one of them and that’s the problem. We elect people who on the surface are good and have some humility once they get into power the humility is replaced with expensive suits and the every day language people who voted for them replaced with five dollar words and new rich friends with a title before their name. they become what they ran against and the cycle continues.

  36. Jim Stanton on May 13th, 2022 8:43 am

    Commissioner May, the first thing on your list of basic needs, food, is not taxed in Florida just in case you don’t know.

  37. EMD on May 13th, 2022 8:23 am

    Nothing is ever enough.

  38. Sherry on May 13th, 2022 7:54 am

    Why not fund all county Fire Depts through the lottery.

  39. Lou on May 13th, 2022 7:54 am

    Increase the bed tax for hotels by a few cents, like some many places done on the coast, and other parts of the country. Utilized those moneys for fire safety only, don’t allow it to go on the general fund. Problem solved.

  40. Dave Coleson on May 13th, 2022 7:52 am

    Pretty sad they dole out money for non Essential items like homeless housing and a roundabout, meanwhile the county doesn’t have enough Fire Trucks/firefighters or jail corrections officers.

    This is all their own statement at the last Coffee with a commissioner Bergosh.

    Sorry state of affairs.

  41. Fair share on May 13th, 2022 7:44 am

    Since anyone is a potential customer of fire services, then everyone should pay. Shouldn’t matter how much or little you earn. One group always yells “pay your fair share” until it’s their turn.

  42. Kate on May 13th, 2022 7:40 am

    If you cannot afford to buy a house you can’t afford another 8.5% increase in sales tax. I agree with you Jason. Start making developers who get rich off theses developments pay a much high price to build and get rich. We end up paying for their profits. UNFAIR. They should be charged enough by the County to cover costs such as fire protection, road paving, water use, etc. for 50 years to cover the costs of development.

  43. Mike Spinks on May 13th, 2022 7:34 am

    Taxes, taxes, more taxes. Why doesn’t the county just go ahead and take all of my retirement money and other income just to pay their bills. Pay my food, medical, and power bills and I will give you my income. Use the money for the intended purposes and not in their wallets or increase their income.

  44. joy on May 13th, 2022 7:29 am

    Perfect timing-look at the price of everything and raise the sales tax??? the dollar generals are EVERYWHERE-let’s have the businesses START PAYING THEIR FAIR SHARE AND STOP HITTING THE HARD WORKING CLASS-

  45. Terry104 on May 13th, 2022 6:09 am

    Commissioner May, I have one question for you. What about the poor property owner? They have about the same problems as renters. There is one major difference. The property owner also have to pay for their own repairs, which have also increased drastically.

    An increase in sales tax is the only way to be fair.

  46. Jason on May 13th, 2022 3:02 am

    The last time the BCC opted to employ an increase in the gas tax to fund ECAT, the money it freed-up in the BCC budget became “free money” to be spent elsewhere in the budget. Property Owners didnt see any relief and I highly doubt that property owners see any relief with this proposal.

    If all this new growth isnt paying for itself, maybe its time to reign-in all this development that is occurring or imaybe require developers to start paying a larger share via a new infrastructure tax.

    No level of government ever has enough money. They always need the taxpayers to reach deeper into their bank accounts and fork over more money to pay for more programs. In reality, the County needs to do what every homeowner does — and that is develop a budget, that provides for ESSENTIAL services and then fund those program based on priorities. Once the funding has been exhausted anything that wasnt funded has to wait another year or the government will have to start holding a bake sale to raise additional revenue.





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