Despite the fact all the talking regarding leaving Okaloosa County may be nothing more than talk, the issues involved are real. The Destin City Council has been providing most of Okaloosa County’s revenue through their property sources, tourist development, and many additional means every year and are becoming frustrated. The benefits they have seen are not enough for their efforts. The annexing of Destin into Walton County is an option under consideration. A tourist department could then be created for the city. Since the county had not included the Sheriff’s office law enforcement necessary for spring break into their budget, there was a lot of anger regarding the issue. There are plans to help finance the cost by the county officials.
The incorporation of the city of Destin occurred in 1984. This provided Okaloosa County with roughly $59.5 million in taxes, and encompassed 8.2 square miles. The taxpayers located on the unincorporated peninsula provided another $11 million. If Destin is annexed by Walton County, these unincorporated areas will continue to be a part of Okaloosa County. Another issue involves the $12 million generated by condos, properties and Destin condos for rent, hotels, the unincorporated areas and the resorts in Destin.
Most of the options are extremely unlikely, but there is hope for the community of Destin stretching from the Marler Bridge to the Bay County line. Destin and Walton County have shared a border since the 1984 incorporation. Prior to 1915, Destin’s current area was a part of Walton County. More than a century past, twelve miles of western Walton County and Santa Rosa County were merged to create the county.
The establishment of a separate county for Destin is another possibility. Unfortunately, according to history this battle would be almost impossible because the Florida Legislature is required for authorization. The last time this was accomplished was in 1925, when Gilchrist City separated from Alachua County. Since then, there have been attempts for the establishment of four new counties. This occurred between 1917 and 2000. The final attempts were made in 1999 and 2000, and both efforts failed. The other two efforts were also unsuccessful and were made in 1965 in Kennedy and 1917 in Bloxham.
A new coastal city would provide an incredible economic boost. Currently, 27 percent of Okaloosa County taxes are provided by Destin, and 99 percent of ad valorem taxes are contributed by South Wales for Walton County. South Walton is providing 88 percent of the ad valorem tax roll. This totals $145,789,989.16, yet all the taxes collected come to $165,493,361.43. South Walton additionally collects all the bed tax revenues, and in 2016 the total was $21,758,228.
The problems due to the incorporation in Destin have to be dealt with. The date specified for the next meeting has been set by the Destin City Council. The city council members intentions are to have a full report before the meeting. This is pertaining to Destin potentially leaving Okaloosa County’s tourist department or being annexed by Walton county. If this happens, Destin will start their own department for tourist development.