Representative Botana…Here are The Facts

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(By Fort Myers Beach Fire Chief Scott Wirth) Are the Lee County community-oriented special fire districts more cost-effective than the larger, regional fire districts in Collier County? I’ve done the research and here are the facts.

In 2014, Collier County had several fire districts merge into two regional districts; the Greater Naples Fire District and the North Collier Fire District. During the same period of time, Lee County has maintained 17 independent special fire districts.

Recently, Florida State Representative Botana asserted that merging community-based public safety services into a larger, regional fire district would equate to saving money. This analysis dissects that assertion by comparing the change in revenue over time to the underlying taxable value of the real property being protected.

This analysis looks at the two consolidated Collier fire districts as well as the south 8 fire districts in Lee County. The south 8 districts were selected because, for the last nine years, they typically represent some of the highest growth rates in property values, creating a worst-case scenario for Lee County in a head to head comparison. They are also the closest geographical districts to Collier County.

Note: The above chart for the Lee County fire districts is derived from using the 2022 real property values (before Hurricane Ian) and adding 5% rather than using the actual 2023 tax rolls. Using the actual tax rolls for 2023 brings the annual average for these south eight districts down to 7.7%.

What this comparison illustrates is that the two consolidated districts in Collier County are operating on an average annual increase in revenue of approximately 14.5% while the Lee County Districts, providing the same fire and EMS services, are doing so at an average annual revenue rate increase of about 9.3%.

The Fire Service in Lee County also provides Haz-mat and Urban Search & Rescue services to the entire SW Florida region. While Collier County provides approximately 10% of the staff for the Florida Task Force 6, Urban Search & Rescue Team, the Lee County Fire Districts comprise the overwhelming majority of the personnel and resources. The fire service in Lee County also provides a Type-3 Incident Management Team capable of responding to larger incidents within the region. Region 6 incorporates the counties of Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Manatee, Sarasota, DeSoto, Hendry, Glades, Highlands, and Okeechobee.

The question at the beginning was, “Are smaller, community-oriented fire districts more cost-effective than larger, regional districts? It appears from this information that the Lee County fire districts provide fire, EMS, and technical rescue services for less than the larger, consolidated districts evaluated.

In a previous interview, representative Botana was quoted as saying “We need to get rid of some of these special districts. We are a state of limited government.” Are we confusing the quantity of districts with the cost of government?

In this analysis, it appears that the community-based fire districts in Lee County are providing custom tailored services to their respective communities at a lower cost and with more citizen (Board members) participation in their local governments. Where’s the downside in this system?

If the mission of Representative Botana is to create fewer, larger governmental entities, with less local input, isn’t that the opposite of limited government? If you’d like your voice to be heard, please contact Representative Botana and tell him to study the voluntary mergers that have already occurred and prove the cost savings he claims.

Representative Adam Botana – District 80 – Adam.Botana@myfloridahouse.gov

District Office 
Sunshine Professional Center
9240 Bonita Beach Road Southeast. Suite 2215
Bonita Springs, FL 34135-4251
(239) 949-6279

Capitol Office 
319 The Capitol
402 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1300
(850) 717-5080

 

16 COMMENTS

  1. Joe Biden has done a good job in spite of the hatred and division created by the last president. There’s only so much he can do while being blocked by a fractured republican congress who have forgotten that they work for the people and we are supposed to be a democrbig!
    You’re the imbecile, bdg!

    • If I can unscramble your words as to what I think you meant “democracy”… we are a Republic. It would be educational to learn the difference.
      This is my last post in the matters of the fire district. It was not I who started partisanship of Presidents and federal bureaucracy.

  2. Lee, the reason I use a 3 letter “handle” instead of my name is simple. It is to prevent deranged people who don’t like my replies from tracking me down and possibly doing me great bodily harm.

  3. bdg,
    It’s congress that has the responsibility of solving the immigration mess at the border by creating clear and reasonable policy. Until then there’s little Biden or any president can do.
    That’s what I believe.
    Just curious, when you make insinuations like that about people why do you hide behind initials?

  4. I’m gathering the pros and cons are over less costs and lower taxes.
    Can someone tell me when was the last time taxes were reduced and not re-allocated elsewhere…on anything?

  5. Todd and Lee, so when you have a fire or medical emergency who is going to respond? When someone gets run over on Estero blvd who you going to call.
    Yes, new structures will be built to code. Houses aren’t required to have sprinklers and they are filled w combustible furniture and everything else that is in a house. The chief has laid out facts, not opinion. Visitors will return
    I bet you both are election deniers and believe everyone should have a machine gun to hunt rabbits

    • Paul,
      Terrible argument.
      Fire departments are expected to run to emergencies. That’s what they collect tax dollars and get paid to do.
      No one is talking about taking fire and rescue units off the island. It is simply about finding the best district economies.
      And no, I am not an election denier nor do I favor machine guns. I know who won that election. Joe Biden. That’s why he’s president. Thankfully.

      • I see the democratically controlled city of Chicago is going to create a camp for 2000 illegal migrants. Maybe we can bring biden’s policies here to FMB. It’s what you support right?

  6. Sorry but this needs to be analyzed by an independent party. Not by the person that has a major stack in a report favoring he keep is status/job (The FMB Fire Chief).

  7. The questions here should be:
    Does combining affect response times? Better or worse?
    Where are savings? Only 1 fire chief? office personnel? firefighters? stations?

  8. During season, it might be impossible to get a truck, ambulance, etc onto Fort Myers Beach. That needs a lot of thought.

  9. These are great facts and indisputable but, they are pre-Ian. The fact is, FMB is a small fraction of what it once was and no longer needs nor can it support a full-service independent Fire district. The next question may be, will FMB EVER need an independent full-service district? Once new structures are built on the island, it will be done with modern construction methods and updated fire codes. Arguably, even if the island is COMPLETELY rebuilt, the need for a full-service independent district is much less than pre-Ian. Furthermore, probably the biggest line item on the FMB budget is the EMS ambulance and staff. This ambulance, it’s benefits AND the costs could be shared with ALL the barrier islands. At this point, the Chief isn’t the best person to provide an independent analysis because he sees the writing on the wall and is desperately trying to save his job and lavish salary. Clearly, the best solution is to merge with Bonita Springs.

    • Well said Todd Johnson.
      The problem with an objective look at finding the best economical operation of the districts has been a hardened resistance by the locals in each district, an almost irrational insistence on leaving their departments alone. It’s been a wall of fierce defense and protection that has held the politicians at bay in attempts to find objective answers.
      Letting the fire Chiefs lead the discussion presents an obvious conflict of interest. It’s like letting developers dominate an LPA.

      • The same can be said about a democrat running the country and doing what’s best for We The People. Fine job the imbecile is doing.

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