The City of Zephyrhills may be adding fee assessments, as a reliable measure to boost the city’s general fund and support operations.
The city council unanimously approved a study analyzing the impact of a fire assessment fee, during a regularly scheduled meeting on Oct. 23.
City Manager Steve Spina said a fire assessment fee — placed on individual property owner parcels throughout the city —would generate $1 million to $2 million annually toward the operation of the fire department.
It could also, at some point, result in a reduction of the city’s millage rate, he said.
“It’d be very similar to the Municipal Servicing Tax Unit that the county does,” Spina said.
The assessment study, performed by Stance Consulting, will provide the city with a detailed model for the development of a 10-year financial plan.
The cost for the development of the fire assessment study is $33,384. Implementation assistance ($8,500) and outside legal sub-consultant fees ($6,330) bring the cost of the program to about $48,000.
Spina acknowledged the program is “pricey,” but noted it could also be utilized if the city wanted to assess a stormwater fee in the future.
Last month, the city passed a Resolution of Intent informing residents and the Pasco County Property Appraiser and Pasco County Tax Collector offices that fee assessments are being considered.
In other action, the city council approved a three-year agreement with current City Attorney Matthew E. Maggard.
The term, which runs through Oct. 21, 2020, will pay Maggard $135 per hour for the first year and $150 per hour for the final two years. The contract also requires the city to pay a minimum fee of $700 per month as a retainer.
Attorney services were rendered at $125 per hour all of last year.
Maggard has served as the city’s attorney since last August, when he took over for Joseph A. Poblick, who stepped down to serve on the Pasco County Court.
Maggard also is an attorney with the law firm of Hersch & Maggard P.A., in Dade City and Zephyrhills.
He said the service fee for the first year of the contract is fair, noting “there are still some things in government work that I’m still learning to navigate, that will take a little extra time.”
“I think I’ll be a little more qualified and a little more experienced after one more year,” Maggard said.
The city manager, meanwhile, spoke positively of Maggard’s services to Zephyrhills over the past year.
“I’ve found him to be very informed, probably the most professional and agreeable city attorney to work with. He works with all the staff. He’s easy to get a hold of,” Spina explained.
Council members expressed similar feelings regarding Maggard and his expertise.
“He’s done a very professional job ,” councilman Charles Proctor said. “Anytime I’ve ever had any questions, if he didn’t answer the phone, he promptly called me back with an answer. I believe we’ve got a good guy here.”
“I could tell right from the (job) interview that I was going to like him,” councilman Ken Compton said. “He’s been nothing but professional, on the spot, very easy to get along with, and very accurate and very assertive and proactive with what he’s done.”
Council vice president Lance Smith added he’s glad the city has hired a local attorney “who provides a professional service to the city.
“Hopefully we can stick with him for quite a while. Hopefully he doesn’t get tired of us,” Smith said.
Published November 1, 2017