Submitted by Susan Hardee Steger
July 29, 2015 10:15 p.m.

DSCN0133 CropAfter a two hour budget workshop Tuesday afternoon, the Fernandina Beach City Commission voted 5 – 0 to set the tentative millage rate at 6.1021. The tentative millage rate can be reduced when the final budget is approved.

Added to the 6.1021 millage rate is voter approved debt for the Greenway bond at a slight decrease of .2023 bringing the total millage to 6.3044. Although the proposed 6.1021 millage rate maintains the previous year’s rate, it is considered a tax increase.

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Patti Clifford Finance Director

Patti Clifford, finance director, presented the proposed budget.  State shared revenue increased by $264,000. The City’s taxable value increased $20 million dollars or 4.8%.

Items in the proposed budget include:
Accounting/Permitting Software $1,025,500
(Loan Proceeds $706,500)
Street Resurfacing/striping $332,750
Alachua Street Opening (Loan Proceeds) $800,000
Atlantic Rec Ctr Baby Pool Improvements $45,000
Peck Center Window Replacement (Third Phase) $55,000
Waterfront Park $275,000
Brett’s Pilling Repair/Replacement $112,700
Golf Course Banquet Chairs $25,000
Golf Course Propane Equipment $55,000
New Fire Truck (Capital Lease) $400,000
New Backhoe (Purchase) $100,000

Commission discussion centered on staffing needs, health insurance, and storm water projects.

Staffing

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Commissioner Johnny Miller

Although the budget funds two additional employees for streets, a part time code enforcement officer for weekends, increasing staff in the clerk’s office by changing part time position to full time, commissioners discussed adding a full time police officer to cover the historic downtown at an estimated budget impact with benefits and insurance at $67,000, and increased staff for code enforcement. An additional police officer requires the purchase of a police vehicle. Police dispatch now handled at the county level decreased city police staff by 5 employees. Commissioner Miller pushed for more support in code enforcement noting it is a public safety issue. City Manager Joe Gerrity said there is only so much money available. “We allocated resources where we think we can deliver the best level of service.”

Health Insurance

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Commission Pat Gass

Commissioner Gass asked to remove $42,000 from the budget earmarked toward health insurance benefits for commissioners. In addition to a salary of $12,000 per year, commissioners can receive health insurance. There are  three commissioners who receive the benefit. Commissioner Poynter said the city has committed to provide the insurance. He also felt the benefit might attract good candidates to serve on the  city commission. To eliminate the benefit is “short sighted.” Commissioner Lentz said the Nassau County Board of Commissioners receives health insurance benefits along with salary.

Commisioner Boner took issue with Gass disclosing the names of those receiving benefits as a violation of HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)  and said the information is protected.

Gass felt eliminating the benefit would fund another city position, and  funding the commission health insurance benefit when part time employees do not receive the same benefit is unfair.

Poynter noted that in previous budgets Gass has not mentioned medical insurance payments for commissions.  He then quipped, “I guess it would be different [this year] if other people got elected.”

Gass received no commission support for her recommendation to discontinue the benefit.


Non-Profits

The commission reviewed non-profit allocations.  Commissioner Gass was steadfast in her three year objection to the City’s funding of non-profits despite the increased dollars gained when  non-profits apply for various grants. Four commissioners agreed to provide on $47,500 for non-profit funding. In addition to the $47,500 funding, budget line items include funding to the Council on Aging at $30,000, and the Amelia Island Museum at $10,000. Museum volunteers staff the Marina Welcome Center/Shrimp Museum.

Storm Water

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City Manager Joe Gerrity

During the special meeting following the commission workshop, City Manager Joe Gerrity spoke to the storm water problems on North Fletcher. The one million dollars needed for storm water improvement in the  North Fletcher and Tarpon areas is to fund the placement of  3 foot swales  in the city right of way. Since many park residents use the right of ways for parking, pushback is expected from property owners should the commission move forward with the project. There are limited alternatives to consider.  Those limited alternatives  could cost 10 million.

After holding another workshop for capital improvements were discussed, Commissioner Miller asked the commission take a look at the golf course since the City continues to allocate increased funding  for the golf course.

The commission agreed to hold one additional workshop to continue the 2015/2016 budget discussions with a focus on the Capital Improvement Plan.

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Tom Dolan
Tom Dolan
6 years ago

A Million Dollars for accounting and permitting software? A Million Dollars? No discussion?

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