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Perdido incorporation hits roadblock

Perdido Key State Park
Florida State Parks
Perdido Key State Park

Efforts to incorporate the Perdido area in southwest Escambia County have stalled. On Monday, District 2 Representative Alex Andrade announced he will not be filing a local bill to place the question on the ballot in 2024.

The move comes just one month after Andrade voted with the Escambia County Legislative Delegation to move forward with the We Are Perdido initiative.

“However, I mentioned that I had concerns with the feasibility studyat the meeting,” stated Andrade, who initiated an in-depth review.

“Since that meeting, I've confirmed with the Florida Department of Revenue that the feasibility study overestimated the amount of revenue the city would get, specifically from solid waste like trash hauling services or trash pickup that ECUA currently does.”

The feasibility study, he said, erroneously counted 100% of the revenue for trash pickup and disposal as revenue the new city would get to count towards the taxes it would have to generate to qualify for $3 million in sales tax revenue.

Ultimately, the numbers just didn’t add up.

“So, their proposed revenues and their feasibility study were about $16.4 million," Andrade explained. "With just that one correction, related to trash pickup, their estimated revenues dropped to below $10 million,” he explained. “So, (that’s) a significant decrease in revenue, especially when their proposed expenditures as a city were at around $12.5 million for that first year. So, I just saw enough issues and inconsistencies in the feasibility study to not have faith that the feasibility study and proposal as drafted was adequate.”

The boundary of the proposed Perdido township would extend from Perdido Key north to Lillian Highway and east to Blue Angel Parkway, which is about 33 square miles.

Map of proposed Perdido incorporation

In order to make the incorporation proposal work, Andrade said he would have been required to essentially raise taxes by $327 per household in the area or put in a statutory waiver exemption for the bill to pass muster.

“And those were just two things I wasn't comfortable doing on my own,” declared Andrade. “Those were things that, from my perspective, should, have been, dealt with and addressed well before this proposal was submitted to the delegation to consider.”

During the delegation meeting in late October, a little over a year after launching the incorporation initiative, We Are Perdido leader Steve Brendtro expressed confidence that the group was on the right track.

“Our organization retained an experienced consultant with 35 studies under their belt. Their reports have a long track record of being factual, impartial, and sometimes brutally honest,” he said. “The report provides budget projections simply as a baseline, contemplating current service levels for current dollars, using existing revenue sources that would return to the community.”

The incorporation proposal was sold as a “government lite” model of governance that would streamline costs by outsourcing most existing services such as fire and law enforcement to existing providers, with the goal of not raising additional taxes. Facing criticism on that point, Brendtro attempted to clarify.

“When it comes to taxes, there's only one guarantee that they go up; that's how it works,” he asserted. “Government is not free. It's never been free. And we're not naïve. If citizens want more services, it would cost more.”

However, some Perdido area residents are satisfied with the services they’re currently receiving from Escambia County and do not want another level of government.

Courtesy Photo

Jon-Michael Jones, who started the grassroots organization Stop Perdido City, is applauding the decision to pause the incorporation effort.

“The feasibility study, I believe, personally, and a lot of other people believe, they need to have a lot more details for how the government will react with common citizens,” Jones told WEAR-TV Monday.

For his part, Representative Andrade said those residents who oppose incorporation of Perdido factored very little in his decision to halt the legislative process for this year. Further, he reiterated his pledge to keep his personal opinion out of it and to not stand in the way of letting the people have their say, but only on a ballot initiative that is proper.

“I'm confident that more than 10% of folks in that community, would like to incorporate, or at least want the question on the ballot,” he said. “From that perspective, I really only viewed my role as making sure that the language was accurate and correct, and met any kind of statutory requirement.”

 That means a local bill that would allow the issue to go on the ballot won’t happen in 2024, but Andrade says the door is still open.

“I think that if they do more due diligence and more public engagement, they can come back next year and make, a similar request with better information and better numbers,” Andrade explained.

In a written statement from We Are Perdido late Tuesday afternoon, Brendtro acknowledged knowing that their municipal incorporation initiative was a multi-year project, highlighted their outreach efforts thus far, and pledged to "continue working with Rep. Andrade and his staff to further identify and address their concerns and forge a path forward for the future."

Sandra Averhart has been News Director at WUWF since 1996. Her first job in broadcasting was with (then) Pensacola radio station WOWW107-FM, where she worked 11 years. Sandra, who is a native of Pensacola, earned her B.S. in Communication from Florida State University.