by Jorge Aguilera, Deputy Chief EMS
North Naples Fire Control & Rescue District
As we approach the November 4th vote on the consolidation/merger of the North Naples Fire Control & Rescue District (“NNFD”) and the Big Corkscrew Island Fire Control & Rescue District (“BCIFR”), I continue to have the distinct pleasure of meeting and discussing the issues with residents of both districts. I believe it is my responsibility as the Fire Chief to ensure our taxpayers have the factual information necessary to make an independent and informed decision on this very important issue.
After several months of the public vetting process, it has become clear that there is some misinformation which has been disseminated regarding the consolidation/merger of NNFD and BCIFR. I think it is important to take this opportunity to identify what is fact and what is fiction:
- Fiction: If the merger occurs, the NNFD tax rate for fire service will increase from 1 mil to 1.5 mils, or even higher. Fact: An increase in the maximum tax rate for NNFD (1 mil) is EXPRESSLY PROHIBITED without a separate vote of the taxpayers of just NNFD. In fact, the merger plan calls for a reduction in the NNFD tax rate to .95 mils during the first 5 years of merger, and the NNFD Board adopted that lower millage rate of .95 for the 2014-2015 fiscal year.
- Fiction: NNFD tax money will be spent in BCIFR; NNFDwill be a “donor district”.Fact: NNFD tax money will NOT be spent in BCIFR. By usinga cost allocation method, the finances of each district will be trackedand maintained separately to ensure one district is not funding a tax reduction in the other, or one district is not subsidizing the other. Thiscost allocation method will be required by the newly merged district’s enabling act.
- Fiction: Service level will be decreased in NNFD; NNFDresources will be moved out to BCIFR. Fact: Service level will be increased in BOTH NNFD andBCIFR. In just the first five years, an estimated $2.3 million will besaved and reinvested into more firefighters and more quick responseunits in both districts.
- Fiction: BCIFR is going broke and NNFD will have to support them. Fact: BCIFR is NOT going broke. Not once in the 20 yearfinancial projections (which are very conservative) does BCIFR ever deplete their reserves. In fact, BCIFR used $303,000 LESS inreserves than planned in the 2013-2014 fiscal year.
This is one of the most important decisions the residents of NNFD and BCIFR have to make in reference to the provision of fire and rescue service. As Fire Chief, I feel it is my duty to provide access to all the information necessary to make an informed decision. This information is available electronically through our merger website at bcnnmerger.com, or in print at any NNFD or BCIFR station. We would love the opportunity to meet with you or your group. Please contact my office at 239.597.3222 to make arrangements.