After the recent approval of a $4 increase in the monthly fire protection surcharge, the Public Safety Committee investigated how this increase would affect the residents who were participating in the fire protection surcharge discount program. This program was created to ease the financial burden on citizens living at or below the poverty level. For a family of two, the poverty level is considered to be $16,000 or below, for a family of three, the level is $20,000 or below, and for a family of four, the level is $24,000 or below. The poverty levels are based on the adjusted gross income figure on the federal income tax return.

The break-point below which Jacksonville residents were paying no surcharge was $15,000. Given the increase in the Fire Protection Surcharge, the committee unanimously agreed that the new break-point below which residents would not pay any surcharge should be raised by $5,000 to $20,000.

The committee also wanted to revise the current method that was being used to determine the discounted monthly charge for residents with an income range of $20,000-$25,000. The decision was to base the charge on a simple 10% discount for each of the five ranges (in $1,000 increments) of the adjusted gross income. By setting the rates in 10% increments, it would be easier to explain to a resident applying for the discount how the various incremental rates are calculated.

At its meeting on September 6, 2016, the City Council, in a move to show community support for Jacksonville residents at or below the poverty level, approved a resolution adjusting both the Fire Protection Surcharge discount rates and how the rates are calculated as recommended by the Public Safety Committee.

by City Councilor Ken Gregg, Liaison to the Public Safety Committee