Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
September 20, 2019

On September 17, 2019, the City of Fernandina Beach held the first of two legally mandated public hearings on the proposed City millage rate and Budget for Fiscal Year 2019/20, which begins October 1, 2019.  Originally scheduled for September 3, 2019, this hearing was rescheduled due to the mandatory evacuation imposed by Hurricane Dorian.  The required second public hearing will be conducted at a Special Meeting of the Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) on Tuesday, September 24, 2019, at 5:05 p.m. in City Hall Commission Chambers, 204 Ash Street, Fernandina Beach.

City Attorney Tammi Bach read the Truth In Millage Statement below:

Prior to adoption of Resolution 2019-138, which sets the property tax millage rate for operating expenditures, and sets the millage rate for voter approved debt, Chapter 200.065 (4)(d), Florida Statutes, requires that the following statement be publicly announced.

  • The taxing authority levying this property tax is the City Commission of the City of Fernandina Beach.
  • The rolled back rate is 4.8048 mills per $1,000 of assessed value.
  • The percentage increase is 32.27% over the rollback millage rate.
  • The operating millage rate to be levied is 6.3553 mills per $1,000 of assessed value.
  • The voter debt millage rate is .1683.

The proposed tax rate includes one-half mill to be dedicated to the purchase of land for conservation purposes.  This was a mandate imposed by the FBCC for this year only.  Voters will get the opportunity to vote on whether they want this to continue via a referendum question in the November 2020 General Election.

Because of the size of the proposed millage increase, its adoption requires a unanimous vote of the FBCC.  That vote will follow the second public hearing.

The City has been conducting budget discussions since May among Department Directors, the City Manager and the City Commissioners.  The public has also had opportunities to weigh in during workshops.  City Manager Dale Martin provided a brief presentation on the tentative budget, noting that at the request of the FBCC he has added another position for Floodplain Manager.  It should be noted that the two new positions requested for the Building Department — Building Official and Floodplain Manager — are not paid from the General Fund (ad valorem taxes).  Rather, they are paid from fees collected by the Building Department which  by law must be spent only in that department.

The proposed budget, other than calling for two new positions in the Building Department, calls for converting several part-time to full-time employees and funding for a Deputy City Manager, a position that was created by a previous City Commission several years ago but only briefly filled. 

Proposed Capital Projects and Capital Expansion Projects are provided below:

Martin also provided a detailed look at how taxes are allocated.  He provided a table to show how city tax revenues are distributed among the various city funds for services and activities.  Martin said that the average city tax bill is just under $1,000.  Of that amount, $249 is designated for the Police Department and $193 is allocated to Fire Rescue.  Under the proposed budget, $75 would be designated for Conservation; $72 for Streets; $67 for Parks; and $55 for Recreation.  The remaining $389 would be distributed among 20 other funds.  Using these numbers, the daily city tax per household is approximately $2.74.

The proposed budget may be adopted by a simple majority vote.  To view the entire Budget proposal, click here.

The Special Meeting lasted 16 minutes, with only one member of the public making a comment.  Retired City Comptroller Patti Clifford objected to what she termed  “a double whammy tax increase,’ that will raise her taxes 11 percent.  She noted that total tax revenues the city receives will rise because of increased property valuations plus the half mill for conservation.  She opposed the additional millage for conservation without a vote of the electorate.  She suggested that if the FBCC is determined to add millage to support the purchase of land for conservation, the millage for that should be reduced by a tenth to .4.

Mayor John Miller adjourned the meeting following her input.

REMINDER:  The second public hearing on the FY 2019/20 proposed Budget will be conducted at a Special Meeting of the Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) on Tuesday, September 24, 2019, at 5:05 p.m. in City Hall Commission Chambers, 204 Ash Street, Fernandina Beach.

Suanne Thamm 4Editor’s Note: Suanne Z. Thamm is a native of Chautauqua County, NY, who moved to Fernandina Beach from Alexandria,VA, in 1994. As a long time city resident and city watcher, she provides interesting insight into the many issues that impact our city. We are grateful for Suanne’s many contributions to the Fernandina Observer.

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Tim Walker
Tim Walker
2 years ago

To raise city taxes right after the county had the biggest increase in county history to cover up the financial fiasco caused by the Rayonier/ Wildlight development is crazy. Now the city wants a huge tax increase to get in the conservation/real estate business. The FBCC and the city cannot manage a golf course, airport or Marina but now they want to be in the real estate business. Buying and managing land for conservation is not in the scope of city spending . It should be done through corporate, individual donations or grants, not to fan the egos of these city stooges. Someone needs to send animal control to catch and cage the clowns running the city before they do more damage. Citizens of the city and County need to wake up and clean out All the current city and county commissioners ASAP before they ruin our community.

Jack Knocke
Jack Knocke
2 years ago

SHOW UP at City Hall Tuesday at 5:00.

Fernandina Beach city commissioners want to raise spending by an estimated 24% to 32% in 2020. This move will increase our taxes for years to come. Tuesday, September 24th at 5:00 is the our final chance to tell them NO. Our message should be to hold spending flat with the rollback millage rate and defer the conservation .5 mil increase ($1.2 million increase) to a referendum. Be there to show your support for the citizens of Fernandina Beach. Our city’s tax and spend policies are getting out of hand.

The city’s ex-financial officer, Patti Clifford, spoke last week to express her disapproval. Let’s join our voices with hers and show our disapproval. Don’t allow them to railroad this through. Show up at 5:00 Tuesday and pack the chambers.

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