The Gulf Breeze Area Chamber of Commerce has announced its support of the Midway Fire District's upcoming referendum vote on Jan. 31.
In a statement released Friday, the chamber's board of directors said it agreed with the fire district's need for an increase in revenue.
"The Gulf Breeze Area Chamber of Commerce agrees an increase in revenue is necessary for the continued high quality fire protection that Midway Fire District provides," the release stated.
However, there was one stipulation.
"The Board of Directors is concerned about the 'per year' verbiage that could put an unnecessary burden on businesses in the future without fiscal restraint by the Midway Fire District Commission and Fire Chief," the release continued. "Therefore, the Gulf Breeze Area Chamber of Commerce commits itself to be actively involved in all future budget processes of the Midway Fire District on behalf of the businesses of Gulf Breeze."
On Jan. 31, the residents of the Midway Fire District will be asked to vote to approve or deny a change in its fire tax assessments. Currently, residents are paying an ad valorem tax, which is based on the value of a home. The millage rate is 1.4.
The district is seeking to increase that rate by no more than .2 mills per year. As per Florida Statute, the district cannot increase the millage rate to more than 3.75 mills, in all.
"The number one complaint our board members heard was the phrase 'per year' in the referendum," said Josie Cotti, President/CEO of the chamber. "That issue was brought up to Midway Fire District Commissioner (Dave) Szymanski and Chief (Jonathan) Kanzigg at the Governmental Affairs meeting and Board Retreat in November and also at the monthly breakfast in January. But with the understanding that the wording of the referendum could not change, the Board voted to move ahead with support but with verbiage that recognized their concern.
"The obligation as citizens of a democratic country is now on us," Josie continued, "so we, the Chamber, are going to act on our responsibilities and have representatives that serve as watch dogs over the budget process of the Midway Fire District from here on out, on behalf of our members.
"We do not have to just sit back and let the .2 mills cap happen year after year. We as citizens can impact it with our voice and our vote."