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The Villages
Saturday, December 9, 2023

Amenity fees could be tapped to help absorb $14 million loss in fire funding

Officials are looking at further tapping amenity fees to help compensate for the $14 million loss in funding for The Villages Public Safety Department.

Last month, the Sumter Commission by a 3-2 vote rejected hefty fire fee hikes during an emotional meeting that ran late into the night at Everglades Recreation Center.

Since that bitterly contested vote, the county and The Villages District Government have been scrambling to find funding options, as homeowners in The Villages nervously attempt to digest what this all means for them.

“We are not laying anybody off. We are not closing any stations,” Assistant District Manager Bruce Brown said.

However, both he and District Manager Kenny Blocker indicated there will be delays in filling new positions and in equipment purchases.

It also means the $5.6 million construction of Station 46 at Warm Springs Avenue and County Road 509 will be put on hold.

Brown, who has specific responsibility for overseeing The Villages Public Safety Department, also said that fire department personnel and resources will have to be “reallocated” from the northern part of The Villages to the southern end of Florida’s Friendliest Hometown.

District officials are also floating the idea of reaching into the big pot of amenity fee money to offset the $14 million loss in funding from the county.

“We are looking at all opportunities,” Blocker said.

Using amenity money to fund The Villages Public Safety Department is not new. Residents are already paying $4.08 per month to support the fire department. That adds up to about $49 per year, per household.

Blocker pitched the amenity fee funding idea Monday to the Project Wide Advisory Committee, which oversees amenities south of County Road 466.

This past week, the same pitch was made to the Amenity Authority Committee, which oversees amenities north of County Road 466. However, AAC members showed no interest in using more amenity money to fund the fire department.

“It wasn’t well received,” Blocker admitted Monday while speaking to PWAC.

Do you support the idea of dipping into amenity money to provide more support to The Villages Public Safety Department? Share your thoughts at letters@villages-news.com.

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