State and Local Legal Blog

Fees for fire service? | April 3, 2014

Last fall, the Supreme Court considered the question whether residents in an unincorporated area of a county, served by a fire protection district, were illegally taxed because of the monthly fee imposed by the fire protection district.  The residents claimed that the district did not provide a “service” unless there was a fire, and that they had paid months and months of fees but the fire district had never rendered them any services.  These residents alleged a number of grounds, including extortion.

The Supreme Court determined that the fee was permissible because “services” of a fire protection district was far broader than simply fire-fighting.  Among other things, a reduction in fees would cause the district to reduce staff and, likely, the Rating of Six, currently held, would be reduced to a Ten, which would cause an additional $4,000 to be added to the basic home general liability insurance policies of each homeowner.

The import of the case (Alfonso v. Diamondhead Fire Protection District, Mississippi Supreme Court, issued 8/1/2013) is the valuable discussion on how public entities and taxpayers should consider the meaning of “services” for which fees could be justified.

 

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