IMMOKALEE – In August, Immokalee voters will have a chance to modify the way that the fire district is funded. With only four percent of residents paying for fire protection, Fire Chief, Michael Choate had to look for other ways to fund the fire department’s budget. The funds are mainly needed to pay firefighter’s salaries. The proposed referendum will place the majority of the proposed taxes on business owners and non-profit organizations and decrease the amount paid by residential taxes. Commercial properties will, on the average, increase from seven percent to 14 percent. The amount of taxes on businesses, including non-profit organizations, would be determined by the business’ square footage. Non-profit organizations taxes can increase from less than one percent to 14 percent. However, Immokalee commissioners would have the option to exempt churches from paying taxes.
Some business owners are protesting the fire protection tax stating that the majority of the fire calls are residential, so they think that home owners should continue to bear the majority of the burden. Also, many houses in Immokalee are valued so low that currently these homeowners are paying nothing in taxes. If the proposed taxes take effect, the homeowners would have to pay $369. Choate asks residents to join the thirty-two other Florida counties and 73 cities that have assessed a fire protection fee. The important thing to consider, when going to the polls is that, God forbid, if there were an emergency, everyone would want the fire department there ASAP.