‘Asking for what we need': Fire district to ask for tax increase on March 11 ballot

Destin Fire Control District Referendum
Special to The Log
Published: Friday, January 24, 2014 at 14:55 PM.

Fire Commissioners at the Destin Fire Control District hope the second time is the charm as they will ask voters to increase the tax rate for the second consecutive year.

"We're coming back and asking for what we need to cover our current budget," Fire Commissioner Mike Buckingham told The Log. "We heard over and over again that we had to make some cuts before coming back and asking for this, and that's what we did."

Currently capped at 1.0 mils, the district will ask voters to increase the millage rate to 1.145 mils, which will help offset a roughly $485,508 budget shortfall.

Last year, the district asked voters to approve a referendum item that would have given them the authority to raise the millage cap to the max of 3.75 mills. The measure was resoundingly shot down by Destin's voters — 80.7 percent to 19.3 percent.

Both Buckingham and Fire Chief Kevin Sasser say the increase is necessary so the district can continue to operate at a level Destin residents have come to expect, without having to make cuts to the actual first responders on the trucks.

In order to help alleviate some of the budget constraints the district is facing, a decision was made to eliminate an administrative assistant position, which was replaced with a part time receptionist, and the medical division chief position, which was held by Phil Metz. The district will save more than $125,000 annually with the cuts.

"We did lose a good man," Buckingham said.

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