Court case ends funding for Pinellas Suncoast fire rescue services

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The court says they were breaking the law, but now, one fire department says public safety is in danger.

The Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District is in trouble for the way it tried to get funding.

The district serves Indian Shores, Belleair Beach, Belleair Shore, and the Oakhurst communities.

Last November, voters said ‘yes’ to a vote allowing an additional property tax to fund them. 

It averages an additional $100 per household.

However, this month a State Supreme Court judge threw the vote out and said the fire department was deceptive in how the issue was presented on the ballot.

Ed Hoofnagle is an Indian Rocks Beach resident who brought the case to the state level. 

Hoofnagle, who is also a city commissioner, says a lot of taxpayers thought they were getting a break when it was the exact opposite.

“It was very confusing to the average voter,” Hoofnagle said. “They disguised the issue to make it seem like people were getting a tax cut.”

The Suncoast Fire District says the judge’s decision means no raises for first responders and fewer resources to respond to an emergency.

“It could affect public safety,” Joe Bruni, District Chair, said. “If we close fire stations, it could affect response times – sure.”

The Suncoast District board will vote whether or not to appeal in the coming days.