With public voting set to climax on Tuesday in Collier County, the burning question for Fire Chiefs Bob Metzger (Golden Gate), Kingman Schuldt (East Naples) and Rita Greenburg (Immokalee): Why should voters OK tax cap increases rather than push for consolidation to save money?
Meanwhile, Naples’ Dudley Goodlette, Edison State College interim president, outlines what comes next for ESC after the firing of Kenneth Walker. Will any former staff members be brought back?
The chiefs and Goodlette are guests on this week’s "Naples Daily NewsMakers with Jeff Lytle’’ program airing Sunday morning at 10 on ABC7.
Video highlights are at naplesnews.com/newsmakers.
Here is an excerpt:
The Fire Chiefs
Lytle: Let me ask you ... while we’re talking about a tax cap increase in the three districts, elsewhere in the community the big buzz word seems to be consolidation.
We have civic activists working behind the scenes on a renewed effort at consolidation, so I’m told. We have legislation in the works to make consolidation easier than it might have been in the past. Consolidation is the big word and we’re still talking about more money here?
Metzger: We’re not talking more money, not in Golden Gate. We’re talking about maintaining the same level of funding. But the only way that we can create that situation for us is by adjusting the maximum millage rate, which is the cap because the property values have dropped. If we can’t raise the cap, we can’t fund the service to the degree that we have been funding it, and therefore we’ll have to restrict the service in some way.
So that impact is what we’re trying to avoid for the community.
Schultd: I think another thing we need to look at is, as we know over the last several years ... four or five years, our taxable values have decreased; property values have decreased. We know that.
If, for example, in East Naples if we went to the maximum cap of 2.0, it would be an estimated $3.4 million in additional revenue, if there’s no further devaluation of property. We are anticipating another 7½ percent devaluation next year. So when you say a $3.4 million increase it actually would not be that if there’s less property value.
So we are trying to literally maintain that level of service that we have today which is less than we had Oct. 1 of this last year.
Lytle: What I hear you saying is, public safety is not free. We have to pay the bills in terms of consolidation it should be one issue at a time.
Schultd: I think that’s a very reasonable approach.
Greenburg: I agree. It is a reasonable approach because without the funding consolidation and the savings that are implied with consolidation wouldn’t be realized.
Again, as we pointed out, there’s not been a plan that indicates where the 10 personnel that Immokalee is short. It can only come from a consolidated effort. The referendum provides that funding that may be available to replace those personnel.