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Posted on: July 28, 2020

Hardship Deferral Program opened for Fire Protection Service Assessment

Photo of Fire Truck with phrase, Fire Assessment

Update, November 20, 2020:

The City of Panama City has opened a Hardship Deferral Program for the Fire Protection Service Assessment. The City Commission voted and approved the non-ad valorem assessment on September 14, 2020. The assessment is included in the tax bill for property taxes mailed by the Bay County Property Appraiser in November.

The Fire Assessment shares the cost of fire protection more equitably among all City property owners. The new assessment helps alleviate the projected budget shortfall for the 2021 Fiscal Year and provided a way to avoid substantially increased ad valorem property taxes while still providing essential public safety services like fire protection.

The assessment is calculated on a two-tier system and uses data derived from the Bay County Property Appraiser. All property owners pay a fixed rate of $176.62 per parcel and, if the property is improved, $1.52 per $1,000 of improvements determined by the Property Appraiser. If you have questions regarding the determination of your property values, please contact the Bay County Property Appraiser’s Office (https://baypa.net).

The Fire Assessment will bring in approximately $4.7 million which equates to about 52-percent of the Panama City Fire Department’s budget for the 2021 Fiscal Year.

Citizens who are concerned about their ability to pay the Fire Assessment may apply for the Hardship Deferral Program. The program is limited to individuals and homestead circumstances. Copies of the application are available at City Hall in the City Manager’s Office (second floor) or can be printed through this link: https://www.pcgov.org/DocumentCenter/View/5466/Hardship-Deferral-Program. 

Applications may be submitted:

  • In-person at City Hall
  • Email: fireassessment@pcgov.org
  • Mail:

Attn: Fire Assessment Hardship Deferral Program

City of Panama City

501 Harrison Avenue

Panama City, Florida 32401

The deadline to submit an application is January 4, 2021. Determination will be made no later than February 1, 2021.

If you have any questions regarding the Fire Assessment or Hardship Deferral Program, please contact the City Manager’s Office by calling (850) 872-3010 or sending an email to fireassessment@pcgov.org.

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Update, September 14, 2020:

The City Commission voted on September 14, 2020 and approved a Fire Service Assessment, which will placed on the November 2020 ad valorem tax bills.

Property owners within the City of Panama City can view their estimated Fire Assessment amount by searching their name or address in this link: http://quicksearch.ennead-data.com/pcfire/.

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Update, August 25, 2020:

A Public Hearing will be held on September 14, 2020 for the City Commission to consider the plan and vote whether to place the assessment on the November 2020 ad valorem tax bills. It will be held at 8 a.m. at the Bay County Government Center, which is located at 840 W. 11th Street.

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The City Commission of the City of Panama City voted on July 28, 2020 to begin the process of raising funds to support the City’s Fire Department for the 2021 Fiscal Year, which begins on October 1, 2020.

The Commission is engaging Mark G. Lawson, P.A. as special counsel to assist and advise the City in the process of implementing and developing a Fire Assessment. A Public Hearing will be held on September 14, 2020 for the Commission to consider the plan and vote whether to place the assessment on the November 2020 ad valorem tax bills.

The Fire Assessment, if approved, will share the cost of fire protection more equitably among all City property owners. The new assessment would help alleviate a projected budget shortfall and provide a way to avoid substantially increased ad valorem property taxes while still providing essential public safety services like fire protection.

“Due to COVID-19, the City has yet to be notified of the estimates of revenues it will receive from the State of Florida,” City Manager Mark McQueen shared with the Commission.  “Further, the City’s is projecting a decrease in the City’s Merchant Tax revenues because of COVID-19. This decrease combined with the lasting impacts of Hurricane Michael means the City is facing a substantial shortfall in revenues.”

Preliminary rates could raise about $4,700,000, which is approximately 40 percent of the Fire Department’s annual budget. It would cost the median homeowner in Panama City less than $25 a month. Other cities in Florida, such as Panama City Beach and Springfield, have adopted annual Fire Assessments.

Property owners within the City will have access to a search tool on the City’s website that will allow them to search by owner name and location address to see their estimated assessments by August 25, 2020. Further, both published and mailed notice will be sent at that time to all affected property owners.

The City expects to populate its website with additional information in mid-August and later as it becomes available. The Public Hearing will be held on September 14, 2020 at 8 a.m. at the Bay County Government Center, which is located at 840 W. 11th Street.