Looking back over history in Navarre, since 2010 our population has grown by more than 69 percent. The rule of thumb around here has been to select a piece of vacant property, buy it, clear it, build on it and sell it. Wait…we forgot to mention the very important step of building up the dirt at least five feet over the neighbor’s property so it will flood down to their property, not yours. Or maybe it’s because you are putting in a septic tank because no sewer service is available.
While our county officials of years past were sleeping, new people moved into Navarre in droves. They came from Okaloosa County, Escambia County and all over this country. Who wouldn’t want to live here in paradise? But we, and by we I mean the county, failed to make any plans for infrastructure to handle the droves. Navarre is at a critical point in its existence.
We have very little green space left, the roadways and highways are bumper to bumper most mornings evenings and sometimes throughout the day. Our public schools are bursting at the seams. Classrooms are more crowded now than ever before – and yet our educators are top in the state. Apartment buildings are going up to provide additional home spaces, nearly every empty lot is being built on. The Sheriff’s Office is stretched to the limit, drug use has increased, crime has increased and our area is now experiencing things we never use to in the realm of public safety. There are more vehicles on the road therefore there are more vehicle accidents for emergency responders to tend to. And you never worried about locking your car – or your front door for that matter. It was little ol’ Navarre. Not anymore.
And while all the people were moving in, the money was flowing. More property taxes collected, more sales taxes and gas taxes collected, an increased labor force, people buying and selling real estate and most importantly more people to foot the bill of county services. But then we began to outgrow it all. The money wasn’t put aside for future infrastructure. And now here we are stepping all over each other to get from one end of Navarre to the other.
Navarre is at the turning point of the cost of services outweighing the revenue it is bringing in. It is the burden of rapid growth. Anything our county does now to try to correct it will end up costing us – the question is, will it be in the form of a sales tax, gas tax or ad valorem tax? They will pass the cost onto us rather than looking at what savings they could make. We suggest payroll savings among other things – there seem to be many layers in the county.
Navarre’s wish is for our county officials is to come together and formulate a five year, 10 year and even 20 year plan for Navarre – or both. And when we say plan – we mean the whole thing. Instead of nickel and diming us on these half cent sales taxes and gas taxes under the threat of raising ad valorem if they don’t pass, figure out what the end number is and budget backward. With another half-cent sales tax we will be the highest of any Florida county at 8 percent.
The county needs to get to planning – and budgeting – so we can prepare for what is coming.