Submitted by Lynn Williams
City Commission Candidate, Group 1
Why do you support or oppose the current direction of the city commission?
The City Commission appears to have taken a course that preserves the status quo which, almost by definition, means moving in “no direction”, and to do so while cutting expenditures to stay within projected (but reduced) revenues. The last two elections showed overwhelmingly that this was the desire of the voters, and the recent commissions are responding to those who elected them. Part of this vote was driven by a disaffection for the “Forward Fernandina” plan, and surely some part was in reaction to the “crash” of the national economy, and the recession that followed it.
Maintaining the status quo and still maintaining good city services is not easy what with reduced revenues caused largely by falling real estate values. City costs for fuel, electric power, health care, pensions continue to increase. This means taxes will have to rise, or services, perhaps in fire/rescue and police will have to be reduced. City Manager Gerrity has said he has cut about as far as he can, and probably a little further than he’d like in the maintenance departments.
When it comes to producing a tight budget, this commission has done as they said they would. Yet, even with steep cuts, they have had to increase the millage rate in order to maintain service or avoid cutting into reserves, a dangerous thing to do on a barrier island in the hurricane belt.
There is more to do. Next year, I hope with my participation, the commission should work at finding ways to increase revenue without taxation as well as to find ways for further expense reduction. Part of this last requires finding an equitable arrangement for cost sharing with the county, particularly with respect to fire/rescue and police operations.
Also, on next year’s list are two other difficult but important subjects. One is the need for reformation of our city’s insurance program. We’re not now treated fairly. Second, is the city’s costly pension program. In this regard, the city has already engaged a consultant to help find ways of reducing or, at least, spreading, this seemingly always greater cost. There are no easy answers in either category.
The years ahead will require tough decisions. I hope to be a part of them. I believe I can be helpful.
Editor’s Note: This is the first of four questions in a series posed to candidates for the Fernandina Beach City Commission. The answers come to our readers unedited and in the candidates own words. We rotate the order of candidates from week to week. The candidates who have qualified are David B. Austin, Andrew Curtin, Johnny Miller, and Lynn Williams. The Fernandina Observer does not endorse candidates.
October 16, 2013 8:00 a.m.