DEFUNIAK SPRINGS, Florida- Walton County Commissioners voted 3 to 2 Tuesday to increase the county's fire assessment from 25 to 75 dollars a year.
"I would like to suggest that we go with the seventy-five dollar residential rate and seven cents per acre on contiguous land. I guess on all land, seven cents an acre as the established rate for the coming year" said Commissioner Bill Imfeld.
They decided against the original 95 dollar proposal after resident complaints. But some still aren't sold on the compromise.
"I'm still opposed to the land, putting a tax on the land when the division of forestry we're paying them to do that. I think we need to step back and look at our fire service and determine what we want and what the needs are and how we can cut the cost of it and still provide that service” said Commissioner Kenneth Prigden.
"I think it's time for us to assess. Do we need this many stations north of the bay. Can we go back to part volunteers? We're going to need to cut the cost unfortunately and the seventy-five dollars is a good start" said Commissioner Sara Comander.
"I agree with Ms. Comander here and that we need to do a full assessment and see if there's some areas that need to be shifted. Maybe we need to shift the station one way or the other. We may need to cut back" said Commissioner Bill Chapman.
Walton County Fire Chief Brian Coley believes the decision won't please everyone but called it a step in the right direction.
"I have a genuine feeling for the people in the outlying areas. They work hard. They earn every penny they get. This is a cost to them, but i also appreciate the assistance of the board and the people of Walton County when it comes to the fire service" said Coley.
The new fire tax is expected to go into effect for the next fiscal year starting in October.