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The Town of Jupiter has an interlocal agreement with Palm Beach County for the delivery of fire and EMS services within Town boundaries. The previous interlocal agreement ended on September 30, 2023. In advance of that, in the spring of 2022, the Town and Palm Beach County Fire Rescue began negotiations for a new interlocal agreement. Between June 2022 and August 2023, fire rescue topics were on the agenda at nine different public Town Council meetings, and public comment was allowed. Because initial proposals from PBCFR to continue to provide service to Jupiter involved much higher costs with no increase in service levels, Council approved a consultant contract at one of those meetings to perform a study on Jupiter’s fire rescue options. The independent consultant provided Town Council with four options, two of which were to remain with PBCFR, or to start a Town fire department. When an interlocal agreement was reached with PBCFR in April 2023, several Council members remained concerned about the projected rise in costs from PBCFR. In July, 2023, Town Council requested an update to the consultant study, which showed Jupiter could save its taxpayers between $50 and $70 million between 2026 and 2033 by starting the Jupiter Fire Rescue Department (JFRD). The new department would provide Town Council local control over the costs, operations and levels of service going forward. Based on this updated information, Town Council voted to begin the JFRD and exercise the 36-month termination clause, which was placed into the interlocal agreement by PBCFR.
Much like the Town has contracts for various services with external vendors, the Town of Jupiter contracts with Palm Beach County Fire Rescue for fire rescue and emergency medical services. The contract for these services is with the Palm Beach County and PBCFR Administrations. Palm Beach County fire fighters are employees of Palm Beach County and members of the International Fire Fighters Association (IAFF) Local 2928. IAFF Local 2928 has a collective bargaining agreement with Palm Beach County Administration and PBCFR regarding rules and compensation that govern the employment of their fire fighter employees. The Town does not have a collective bargaining agreement with IAFF 2928.
The Town estimates it will take approximately 3 years to build the JFRD. Critical path items include the ordering of equipment, the construction and renovation of stations, and hiring of personnel.
Yes, PBCFR will continue to be the fire rescue and EMS provider until the JFRD first-call date on October 1, 2026. Additionally, it is the Town’s intent to continue to partner with PBCFR for mutual aid once JFRD is operational.
No. The Town had developed a funding plan that involves a combination of funding sources: use of the Town’s reserves, some financed debt, and eventually when the department goes into operations, ad valorem taxes and a non-ad valorem assessment. Overall, however, the amount of ad valorem taxes and non-ad valorem assessment dollars required to start-up and operate the JFRD will be significantly less than the amount of ad valorem taxes being levied by PBCFR today, and well into the future.
PBCFR has proposed a budget of $28 million to fund the Jupiter Fire Rescue MSTU in fiscal year 2024, which equates to about $951 to a homesteaded property valued at $550,000. County projections have indicated that by 2034 (the last year of the 10-year agreement), the budget will be $44 million, which would raise that same home’s fire rescue taxes to $1,359. However, since the annual cost to Jupiter residents is based on a millage rate set by the County on an annual basis, and since the contract contains cost categories with no caps, things like escalating County costs and rising property values could cause that projection to be higher. Additionally, other communities who contract with PBCFR for fire rescue services (for example, Wellington) are subject to a county-wide millage rate much higher than the current Jupiter MSTU rate (FY 24 Jupiter MSTU rate of 1.7879 vs. a county-wide rate of 3.4581). Should the County ever raise Jupiter’s MSTU rate to align with the rest of the County, the budget could escalate to as much as $62-$84 million per year, depending on how property values increase over time. That same $550,000 homesteaded property would then pay between $1,786 and $2,383 per year.
Initial start-up costs to purchase equipment and build and renovate stations is estimated to be about $58.8 million. Because the Town is in a sound financial position, a portion will be paid for out of the Town’s reserves (or “savings account”), and a portion will be financed. Once the JFRD is up and running, ongoing operations will be funded with a blend of ad valorem (property) and non-ad valorem tax dollars. Even when the start-up costs and required debt are considered, it is estimated that the JFRD’s annual operating budget (starting in FY 2026) will be around $24 million. Over its first 5 years of operation, that budget is expected to increase by about $1 million per year in order to keep up with rising costs of personnel, equipment, and general operating. This is in line with the rate of increase the Town is experiencing in its other public safety operations.
Yes. In 2026, when the JFRD is formed, it is estimated that a homesteaded property valued at $550,000 will pay about $533 for fire rescue and EMS services. The previous year, in FY2025, that same property owner would have paid about $1,000 for PBCFR’s services.
The current plan calls for a total of 93 staff positions to administrate and run the JFRD. That includes 18 staff and command positions, and 75, 24-hour shift positions.
Jupiter is a great place to live, and the Town organization is a great place to work. When recruiting begins, we expect that Jupiter’s combination of compensation, benefits, community and quality of life will be very attractive to potential new team members. The Town of Jupiter knows how to build and provide excellent public safety services, evidenced by how JPD sets the benchmark every day. JFRD will start from a position of excellence, in recruiting, financing and operations. The Town is excited to share that vision with potential new public safety professionals.
Emergency medical services will be provided through the JFRD. Included in the funding and staffing plans mentioned above are the equipment and personnel necessary to provide the same excellent quality of emergency medical services that Jupiter residents experience today.
The JFRD will be funded through a combination of cash, financed debt, ad valorem (property) taxes, and non-ad valorem assessments. The Town will set up a dedicated fund for the operations of the department. Overall, Jupiter residents will pay less in taxes once the JFRD is formed than they currently pay in taxes through the current combination of Town millage and the Jupiter Fire Rescue MSTU rates.
In 2022, the Town of Jupiter contracted with the Center for Public Safety Management (CPSM), affiliated with the International City & County Managers Association (ICMA), to conduct a Fire & EMS Sustainability & Feasibility Study. The purpose of the study was to explore the feasibility of different options for service delivery for fire and EMS services for Jupiter residents and businesses, in order to assist in future policy decision-making.
No. The Town has partnered with PBCFR for almost 40 years to provide fire rescue and EMS services to its residents and businesses, and the service levels have been excellent. In fact, Jupiter’s citizen surveys have routinely shown that residents appreciate and have come to expect a very high level of service. Over those 40 years, Jupiter has grown in population, size and commercial make-up. When it came time to renew Jupiter’s interlocal agreement for services with PBCFR, the Council wanted to ensure that the residents and businesses of Jupiter were offered the highest levels of service at a fiscally-responsible and sustainable rate. Discussions with PBCFR combined with the findings in the CPSM study led the Council to ask a number of questions, and to weigh options for service delivery. The time is right to establish a JFRD that can provide the high levels of service our residents and businesses expect, while offering a reasonable amount of local control over financial and operational matters.
The JFRD will provide the same levels of excellent service in fire and EMS that residents and businesses in Jupiter have come to rely on and expect. In fact, Jupiter’s plan for the JFRD includes the installation of a ladder truck, which is a piece of equipment that PBCFR currently has to bring into the Jupiter area when needed.
The Town has a detailed project and funding plan created jointly with the consultant (CPSM) it hired to do the feasibility study in 2022. The plan calls for a roughly 36-month timeline that includes the financing, ordering of equipment, the construction and renovation of stations, and hiring of personnel. In the near-term, the Town Council will be considering approval of items related to the purchase of equipment, the hiring of a consultant to manage the implementation process, and the financing and funding mechanisms.
No. Land acquired through the Open Space Bond Program will not be used for a JFRD fire station. The Town has not yet finalized specific locations for fire stations. In the feasibility study, conceptual locations were identified in various areas of Town for planning purposes only.