COLLIER COUNTY, Fla.- Voters in Immokalee, Golden Gate, and East Naples Fire Districts are being asked if fire services warrant higher taxes.
All three districts have referendums on Tuesday's ballot asking voters to decide whether to raise the maximum tax rate or not.
"We are simply trying to preserve the current level of service. We are not doing this to enhance levels of service. Over the past several months we have been required to reduce that level of service and we want to maintain that. We do not want to have to reduce it any further than it is today," East Naples Fire Chief Kingman Schuldt said.
If the East Naples referendum passes homeowners currently paying $1.5 would pay $2, a 33% increase.
For the owner of a $100,000 home, that would amount to 55 cents per day for fire services.
Homeowners in Golden Gate who currently pay $1.5 per $1,000 of taxable property value would pay $2.75, but just for five years.
If they referendum passes, homeowners there would see an 83% increase in what they pay.
"If we fail to support the referendum, we're creating a situation where we can't be sure we can fund the district going forward. If that happens, it may result in closures of stations. What that means is longer response times," Golden Gate Fire Chief Robert Metzger said.
The referendums were proposed to offset a dire funding situation, made worse by declining property values.
"The number actually resulted from a look at the 2003 fiscal year. If property values dropped to approximately the same amount as they were in 2003 then our cap would need to be what we're proposing 2.75 in order to be able to continue the ongoing services we provide," Chief Metzger said.
The Immokalee referendum would increase the tax cap 25% from $3 to $3.75.
"If successful the referendum will allow the District to generate approximately $450,000 of the nearly $750,000 in lost revenues over the past three years. Clearly this will not allow the Immokalee Fire Control District to return to full staffing but will aid in the return to duty of up to 4 firefighters and allow Station 31, on Carson Road, to be re-opened," Immokalee Fire Control District Chief Rita Greenburg said.