The Destin fire district has had a lot of attention recently. To be more specific because of a referendum proposal aimed at raising the millage cap to a 3.75. After hearing both sides of the argument from residents I had the chance to sit down with the commissioners themselves to explain why some of them are for it and some of them are against it.
"Let's just first talk about what it is you guys have been going through and how you guys have been handling all this attention. How has it been for you guys?"
“Well I’ve been surprised at how people have come at this issue it's no doubt it's a controversial issue. The issue is around what millage cap is appropriate for this commission to work under" said Fire Commissioner Jack Wilson.
“We had some reserves and we've been basically using these reserves which is basically savings we put back for various things like replacing equipment or one thing or another and the money is now depleted” said Fire Commissioner Tommy Green.
“It's been a little tough. You know I was one of the commissioners that voted against it so it's been a little tough for me to go out and when the tough questions are asked I have to be honest with the taxpayer and answer what their asking" said Fire Commissioner Mike Buckingham.
"One of the arguments that a lot of residents have is that by raising the cap to a 3.75 that you guys are going to shoot straight up to the 3.75 cap instead of a 1.25. What do you say to that?"
"I have more faith in Commissioner Buckingham's sincerity. He's been very very vocal that he does not support this, would not support it. While I disagree with him I respect his opinion" said Wilson.
"I’m against the amount that they're asking the taxpayer to give. I'm against the ability to not allow the taxpayer ever to be able to vote for the district again" said Buckingham.
"The whole idea of them saying we're going to raise the rates but then they come back and say well you didn't do a good job negotiating with the union or whatever. We do what we can" said Green.
"So how much do you guys want to raise the rate?”
"First of all that really hasn't been set by the commission yet. The processes to bring a budget forward have public budget workshops and hearings and then at the end of approving a budget set a rate" said Wilson.
"In the taxpayers eyes right now the amount that they're asking for is a blank check. Okaloosa County with some of the past officials elected where their taxpayers’ money has ended up is not a good place in the citizens’ eyes right now" said Buckingham.
Destin residents have until Friday to vote early on the referendum issue with an official voting day scheduled for May 14th.