A proposed increase in non-ad valorem fire tax assessments for Holley-Navarre Fire District is igniting some heat in the business community.
The referendum, which will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot in the six precincts HNFD serves, asks voters to consider increases which include raising residential rates by 74 percent, from .0315 to .0547 per square foot, and commercial rates by 116 percent, from .0842 to .1822 per square foot.
“I’m not opposed to (HNFD) having an increase, but the amount they’re asking for is going to more than double the fire tax for businesses,” said Mark Miller, president-elect of the Navarre Area Board of Realtors.
Miller expressed concern that such an increase could have a negative impact on business growth. “Every little impact fee effects whether (businesses) will come. Add double the fire tax to the equation, and it makes it more and more difficult for business to get off the ground,” he said.
Greater Navarre Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Tony Alexander said he understands the concern some businesses have about the proposed increase.
“I also know providing commercial fire service is more expensive than residential service. Additional funding will allow the Holley Navarre Fire District to increase manning to a level adequate for the district and greatly improve residential and commercial fire service. It is also important to remember home and business owners could see insurance savings as our rated fire service improves,” Alexander said.
According to HNFD Battalion Chief Howie Rounsaville, the increase would generate around $1 million dollars and provide for about 21 new firefighters over the course of the next five years to serve the district’s roughly 50 squares miles, which extends from the vicinity of Edgewood Drive to the Okaloosa County line and northward to Yellow River Bridge.
HNFD Chief Ron Norton said call volume has increased 30 percent over the past eight years. In 2015 the department responded to 3,122 calls. “With the new homes comes an increase in population which also leads to an increase of calls for service from your fire department.”
In addition to fire tax assessments, HNFD receives a new construction impact fees of $200 for residential structures and 40 cents per square foot for commercial structures.
“So their budget is already increasing,” Miller said. “Each time a new house is built or new business opens.”
Fire Commissioners unopposed
Two Holley-Navarre Fire District Commissioners were unopposed during the 2016 General Election.
Chairman David Stone and Vice Chairman Kevin VanValkenburgh faced no opposition to retain their seats.
The HNFD board consists of 5 citizens elected from within HNFD boundaries. Commissioners are elected every two years in conjunction with the November General Election and serve four-year terms.
Other seated commissioners who will be up for re-election in 2018 include Charlie Batson, Justin Deese and Doug Schumpert, who serves as Secretary/Treasurer.
HNFD meetings take place at 7 p.m. on the fourth Monday of the each month at Station 45, located at 8618 Esplanade St. Meetings are open to the public.