Special Assessments are used by many local governments throughout Florida to assure that this essential service is adequately funded. Unlike a tax, a special assessment must be developed to recover each property’s proportionate share of the costs and can only be used to fund fire services. The fee is based on several factors, including the total square feet of a building and its use. These factors are combined to create a value for factored fire protection units (ffpu). A rate per ffpu is established by the City Commission during each annual budget adoption. The rate is currently $133.00 per ffpu.
The City of Gainesville offers a hardship assistance program for low-income seniors and residents. The application period opens in January and closes May 1st each year prior to the preliminary calculation of taxes and assessments in August. Check your August TRIM insert for details for late applications. Applications must be submitted each year that the program is available. Eligibility requirements may be viewed in the application packet.
2023 Application Packet for Fire Assessment Hardship Assistance(PDF, 307KB)
Only approved fire sprinkler systems are approved for credits. The deadline to apply for credit closes on May one each year.
Annual Application for Fire Flow Mitigation (Sprinkler) Credit (PDF, 575KB)
Sprinkler Credit List 2022-23(PDF, 375KB)
Mobile Home/RV Park Vacancy Adjustments
Mobile Home or RV Park Vacancy Adjustment applications must be submitted annually by May 1st. See the form for instructions.
Mobile Home or Recreational Vehicle Park Vacancy Adjustment FORM (PDF, 341KB)
Fire Assessment Disputes
Property owners who believe their buildings are a different size than indicated on their assessments should check their parcel information and building footprint on the Alachua County Property Appraiser’s website. The assessment is based on TOTAL square footage, including garages, drive-throughs, covered walkways, and similar "under-roof" sections. If the “total” square footage still appears to be different than the actual building, please call Fire Administration at 352-334-5078.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. What is the rate per Factored Fire Protection Unit?
The rate is currently $133.00 per ffpu.
Q2. Can I apply for credits for sprinkler protection?
The assessment includes an opportunity to apply for a credit to the FFPUs for buildings that are completely protected by an automatic sprinkler system that fully meets the requirements of NFPA 13, NFPA 13D or NFPA 13R. Completed applications for the Fire Flow Mitigation Credit must be submitted by May 1 for the following November tax bill.
Fire Flow Mitigation Credit Application(PDF, 575KB)
For questions, please contact GFR at 352-334-5078 or visit www.gfr.org.
Q3. What if the information contained on the assessment notice is incorrect?
If you believe the information in your notice is incorrect, please contact GFR at 352-334-5078.
Q4. How is my property assessed?
The assessment methodology assigns each building Factored Fire Protection Units (FFPU). FFPUs serve as an estimate for the number of firefighters and other associated personnel, quantity and size of apparatus and other firefighting equipment necessary to provide fire protection to a particular building. The assignment of FFPUs is based on three main criteria:
- Hazard Classification - The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) provides hazard classifications ranging from 3 (most hazardous) to 7 (least hazardous).
- Building Area - The database maintained by the Alachua County Property Appraiser is used as the source for building area data. Buildings are assessed individually based on the records of “total square feet” under roof which includes drive-thru areas, carports, garages and other such areas.
- Historical Demand – Historical demand is based on the response load within each hazard class based on one year of incident reports in the Florida Fire Incident Reporting System (FFIRS) provided by the city.
FFPUs are calculated based on the total square footage of a building and its hazard class as established by NFPA Code 1142, Chapter 5 “Classification of Occupancy Hazard” and Annex G “Municipal-Type Water System.” A system of tiers within the hazard classes determines how many FFPUs are assigned to a building.
Q5. What is the difference between the special assessment for fire services and the property taxes I pay the city?
Taxes are based on the value of property and fluctuate with the market. Special assessments are based on the benefit of the service provided to the property. The use of special assessments requires a fair and reasonable apportionment of costs. This means that unlike taxes, which can be used for any general purpose, the special assessment must be developed to recover each property’s proportionate share of the costs of providing fire services and can only be used to fund fire services.
Q6. I receive a discount for paying my taxes early. Will I receive the same discount for the special assessment?
Yes. The discounts and penalties applicable to ad valorem taxes also apply to special assessments collected on tax bills.
Q7. What period of time does the fire assessment cover and when is it payable?
It is imposed annually covering Oct. 1 to Sept. 30 of each fiscal year. It is payable as part of annual property tax bills, between Nov. 1 and March 31.
Q8. What benefits does a special assessment provide to property owners in the City of Gainesville?
The city continues to provide the level of fire services property owners have come to expect. Fire services have been spared the significant budget reductions and impact on services other city departments must cope with. Maintaining fire service levels helps the city retain its fire protection classification with the Insurance Services Office (ISO Class 3). The level of fire service impacts property values and insurance rates. Higher levels of fire service can lead to higher property values and lower insurance rates, while lower levels of fire service can lead to lower property values and higher insurance rates.
Q9. What is the purpose of the special assessment for fire services?
A special assessment for fire services provides a dedicated, equitable and stable funding source to pay for fire protection services benefiting property in the City of Gainesville.