Brevard Commission approves increasing fire fees, new contract for firefighters

6 percent assessment increase, three-year contract approved Tuesday

VIERA, Fla. – With a 3-2 vote Tuesday, a new 6 percent fire assessment increase was approved on Brevard homeowners.

It's not the immediate 15 percent hike county firefighters wanted, but after the first year it will increase an additional 3 percent and it will keep increasing, getting to 15 percent within a few years.

Last summer, fireman Josh Madsen told News 6 that money and morale at Brevard Fire Rescue hit a crisis point with a budget down $15 million since 2008 with calls for service up 50 percent.

"The problem is we're already behind," Madsen with IAFF Local 2969 said. "We've been stretching our reserve. We stopped replacing fire stations. We stopped fixing fire stations," he said.

Then, firefighters began leaving.

Two years ago, 65 of them quit BCFR.

After several rounds of tough negotiations, the county Tuesday also approved the union's new three-year contract.

Brevard Commissioner Kristine Isnardi said she was happy with the deal but she was not always so pleased how they got there.

"We don't need to publicly bash the commission saying that we don't care about public safety or we don't care about you guys, because that's just not true," Isnardi said.

"In the heat of the moment, people say stuff that's kind of ugly," Fire Chief Mark Schollmeyer responded.

New hires with Brevard Fire Rescue get paid as little as $11 an hour.

The fire chief says there will now be some raises, including a $2,500 increased incentive for certain positions.

"I believe this will keep people within Brevard. It looks on paper as though we're competitive within the county," Schollmeyer said.

Even with a new assessment, though firefighters say it will continue to be hard to maintain fire stations, equipment and vehicles, putting service at risk.

The 6 percent assessment will cost the owner of a 2,000-square-foot home an additional $13 on bills this November.

A public hearing and final vote are needed before the assessment becomes official.

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