CRESTVIEW, Fla. (WKRG) — Residents passed a referendum Tuesday night allowing the North Okaloosa Fire District to start an impact fee taxing new residential and commercial buildings inside their jurisdiction.

While the public passed the motion with 60% of the vote, this impact fee is far from a reality. North Okaloosa Fire District will need this impact fee to be taken up by a Florida legislature to be passed in the next State legislative session in the spring of 2023.

“It’s not even a done deal yet. It’s just the first step in a multi-step process,” said Craig Shaw, fire commission chairman. “There’s not a legislator that is willing to ask for any tax increase unless the public says we’re willing to pay it first. So they told us to go back and ask our constituents if they’d be willing to pay it and then bring it back to us., if you get a positive response and then we’ll take it to the legislature.”

The written motion on the General Election ballot listed a .30cents/square foot charge for new residential construction and .40cents for commercial buildings.

“What we were using for residents was $250 per new house,” said Shaw. “I think the round number that we were looking for was going to be $20,000 to $25,000 a year. Which is not a lot of money, but over time it could mean something.”

This fee would not impact existing residents currently served by the fire district.

Shaw said the economic inflation is impacting fire departments across the region. Tools and maintenance equipment is more expensive making this impact fee a big need for the area.

“Those monies are only authorized by statute to be used for new equipment. Not for payroll, not for new buildings, but only for firefighting equipment. Which could mean anything from tools to protective gear to breathing apparatus and all the way up to fire trucks so those are the type of funds and the type of items that would be impacted for purchases when the time comes to replenish or replace those,” said Shaw.

Next Steps:

With public approval, Shaw and the board will take the referendum back to the state legislator to be added to the next session. If passed, the impact fee could be active by 2024.