What is municipal incorporation?
Municipal incorporation means establishing a city, town, or village. The state of Florida provides statutory guidelines for going through the process. Driven entirely by the citizens of an area, incorporation ultimately requires a vote of the area’s registered voters. But before allowing them to vote, the state requires communities to go through a rigorous feasibility study process, often taking five months to a year, to show they are serious. Along the way, the community provides input on how they would want their new government structured and what problems they want to address. When submitted to their local delegation, the feasibility study becomes a local bill for which the vote occurs.
On January 23, 2023, Lynn Tipton (Director, FLC University) gave an in-depth civics lesson on the process of municipal incorporation, what it means to citizens, and some pros and cons of municipal incorporation. We cannot recommend it highly enough. The We Are Perdido organization is presenting municipal incorporation as an option to the greater Perdido community.
Why is this being considered?
It is no secret that, despite being a formidable tax generator for the county, the Perdido community has long felt overlooked, with citizen concerns ignored and local needs left unaddressed. County-level decisions about development and planning negatively impact Perdido’s innate beauty. Decisions are largely made by people who live outside the area, have conflicting interests, and don’t understand the community’s unique needs. Perdido’s citizens are not included in making of important decisions that affect the way of life. How could the citizens of Perdido change this reality?
After the initial research, three distinct paths forward were identified:
- No Change, Business as Usual: continue working through current county channels, with similar results.
- Special District: an overlay district, master plan, or community development district, still administered by the county, with no local voice, and no guarantee of tax dollars remaining in the community.
- Municipal Incorporation: a local voice, local decision, and a seat at the table.
The first two options leave decisions at the county level, and require local citizens to depend on leaders of the larger county. With a county population of over 320,000 people it is hard to imagine that leaders will make Perdido, with just 6% of that population, a priority. Of the three, municipal incorporation is the only option that consistently affords local citizens a voice, allows local decisions to be addressed locally, and keeps locally generated tax dollars in the local community.
As a municipality, Perdido could have:
- A unified local voice we’ve never previously had
- The ability to make local decisions, which we’ve never been allowed to make
- A seat a the table at which we’ve never been allowed to sit
All other benefits the Perdido community could experience flow out of these three reasons. Community leaders believe that the citizens of Perdido deserve the opportunity to decide for themselves if municipal incorporation is right for them.
What About Taxes?
Taxes are first and foremost on everyone’s minds, and rightly so. That’s why We Are Perdido asked the feasibility study firm to start with an analysis of Perdido’s existing tax base, revenues already generated by the area. We wanted to know how much of this revenue would return to the area, should the community incorporate as a municipality. The study also looked at the estimated year-one local government costs for a new town. These numbers, together, answer the important question. Would taxes need to be raised in order to incorporate?
Phase One concluded with a very positive answer for our citizens. Perdido could incorporate as a town without having to raise any additional taxes. This is possible because of the large amount of tax revenue our community presently generates. At the moment, these funds flow to the county and the state, waiting to be spent in our community, if and when the county administration decided. Based on the Florida Department of Revenue’s calculations for a proposed municipality of Perdido, and records from the Escambia County Tax Assessor’s office, the amount of existing tax revenue that would return to Perdido as a town would more than fund a government-lite style administration.
Phase Two of the study is complete, and Phase Three is underway, with a complete 5-year projected budget of exactly how this could work, complete with expenses, elected officials, and town staff. This study will be finalized before September 2023, and published for the community to review.
What is "Perdido"?
After speaking with residents across the greater area, the boundaries illustrated on the maps below were identified as what many considered to be “Perdido.” Residents often referred to themselves as living in Perdido Key, Perdido Bay, or simply Perdido. Additionally, the borders corresponded almost exactly to the boundaries of four voting precincts (numbered on one of the maps below), and precisely followed boundaries of several US census tract blocks.
Again, the proposed boundaries for Perdido are for research purposes, a starting point for the feasibility study. During the study process, the feasibility study firm also looks at bordering areas that could be considered, or areas that could be adjusted given input from local residents. The blue area of Precinct 55 and the red area of Precinct 95 on the map below are such areas. One can reasonably expect to see a few variations on these maps during the study process. The boundaries themselves can remain fluid up until legislative vote, giving the community more time to consider the final boundaries. Note, the numbers on the map below refer to voting precincts.
What will it cost? Who pays for it?
There are costs associated with research and the process of establishing a new town, and we have outlined them in detail on the Expenses & Funding page here. As is the case with other Florida municipal incorporation efforts, committed citizens within each community invest their time, effort, skills, and finances to complete the feasibility study for the citizens to vote.
We're All Volunteers
We Are Perdido is a volunteer organization, and everything you see so far – initial research, the website, videos, even our large community meetings – is due to the time investment and commitment of these volunteers. Lynn Tipton, from FLC University, our first community meeting speaker, provided her services pro-bono. The board of directors and chairman will continue to be unpaid volunteers. A group of talented residents volunteered to help draft the feasibility study.
Citizens within the Perdido community have already offered to kick-start the feasibility study process through initial donations. Going forward, the feasibility study will be funded by our community, through fundraising and generous contributions of passionate citizens like you.