LEHIGH ACRES, Fla. - It's your money, so the question is would you pay 292 dollars a year to keep that from happening?
"Worked here for almost 10 months now," says Tomas Diaz.
"Six years since I first got hired," says Gary Kruse.
Both firefighters love their jobs. Both are at risk of losing them. "It doesn't feel good," says Diaz. Kruse adds, "It's definitely surreal because we're obviously coming down to the wire here."
As long as the Lehigh Acres Fire Department is being funded through property taxes, it can't afford to maintain its current services.
Some firefights knew this day was coming on their first day on the job, but they took the job anyway even knowing money was tight
"Immediately we hand them a sheet saying that you could potentially be laid off in essence within a year of employment," says Fire Chief John Wayne. "So, its difficult."
In all, 54 firefighters could be out of work after the holidays. The assessment would no longer fund the department through property taxes, and instead fund it through the 292 dollar fee.
"I don't feel its totally fair," says Matt Smith. "If you compare what other districts are paying, for their same protection, it's much higher here."
He believes the department should find an alternate plan, but the Chief believes this fee is the most efficient way to fill the budget gap.
"I have a 15 million dollar budget," says the Chief. "We basically bring in 8 million dollars in property taxes, so we operate at a 7 million dollar deficit every year."
The chief goes on to say he would have to close 2 fire stations if the assessment doesnt pass. He also says the department would have to get rid of its ambulance service. That, however, is a service Lee County would then have to pick up.