Amid rising taxes, Venice firefighters have a plan

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Posted: Wednesday, September 18, 2013 5:29 pm | Updated: 9:13 am, Thu Sep 19, 2013.

VENICE, Fla. - A tax hike in Venice will amount to millions of dollars for the city. Most of the extra money needed is for those who work for the city, and will pay for things like health care and pensions. Now one group says they have a plan which could help.

Venice city residents are seeing the property values go up, and now so are their taxes.

"The difference is going to possibly be a few dollars," says city council member Emilio Carlisimo.

It adds up to a budget increase of roughly $14 million. For the first time in a long time, the city wants to give a small raise to employees. Health care costs are going up by around a million dollars to cover those workers.

And there will be more of those workers. The city wants to hire 14 new employees in different departments.

"We've cut tremendously. Now to keep maintaining the status of our city as a full service city, we need to replace some of these things. We are doing it gradually as the economy increases," says Carlisimo.

Pensions are an annual concern now, with nearly $370,000 additional dollars needed to cover police and firefighter’s retirement, which is currently an unfunded liability. "In the near future, we hope to be dealing with that in a positive way."

In fact firefighter union leaders unveiled a plan Wednesday to address rising pension costs. "Different levels of pay; bringing in 29 new employees," says union member Jerry Collins.

You heard right, more employees. Currently, Sarasota County runs the ambulance service in the city. The union now wants the city to do it. "Taking over the ambulance service from Sarasota County, which would then allow city council to have more control over the service; more control of the dollars that come in," says Collins.

They say those dollars coming in for service calls will pay for the equipment needed, the manpower, and have enough left over to fix their pension problem. The service will actually make money, and our intent is for the extra money to pay down the unfunded liability and make our plan healthy."

City leaders are just getting that news. "It is a large issue, but it is manageable. It is going to be handled. I want everyone to have confidence in that," says Carlisimo.

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