COLLIER COUNTY, Fla - A Collier County community is turning to state lawmakers for support in their fight for equal taxes. The Fiddler's Creek community is split up by two different fire districts paying two different fees.
277 residents living in four villages pay 2.0 mils to Isles of Capri and the rest of the 1,500 residents in Fiddler's Cerek pay 1.5 mils to East Naples, a difference of $50-$150 a year.
"To me, that's not equitable. I shouldn't have to pay more than my neighbor 300 feet away for the same level of service," says Phil Brougham.
Brougham hoped the issue would be resolved with Isles of Capri and East Naples consolidating, but last week, that idea was struck down by Isles of Capri's Advisory Board.
So now, Brougham is turning to state lawmakers to get a local bill that would extend East Naples boundaries and lower his taxes to be on the same level as his neighbors, but first he needs the okay from County Commissioners.
"I'm going to back Fiddler's on this," says Collier County Commissioner Donna Fiala. "If they want to leave and join East Naples, I will back them on it."
Although it didn't get full support last week, consolidation is still an option. The Isles of Capri advisory board wants to wait and take the issue up again in the fall, but ultimately the decision is up to county commissioners. Brougham wants commissioners to push Isles of Capri to move up that deadline and has requested they take up the issue at their board meeting later this month. Commissioner Fiala says she believes consolidating with East Naples is the right thing to do, but wants to give Isles of Capri the time to make that decision on their own.
"September 30th one way or another if you don't have a decision by then, we'll make it for you, but that gives them time, time to communicate with everyone but it can't go on much longer," says Fiala.
If Fiddler's Creek residents are successful in breaking away, Isles of Capri would lose 12 percent of its taxing district.
Isles of Capri commissioner Roy Cain voted in favor of consolidation and says the bigger picture will be his focus moving forward, not Fiddler's Creek. He says with assessments going up, that 12 percent shortfall will be made up in no time.