Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
August 12, 2020
The Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) held the second of two scheduled Budget Workshops on August 11, 2020. During the meeting, which lasted only 45 minutes, the FBCC listened to a presentation from City Manager Dale Martin on proposed FY2020/21 Budgets for the City’s seven enterprise funds. Also discussed were capital improvement projects to be funded both from the City’s General Fund and Parks and Recreation Impact Fees. No member of the public provided input or comments.
There was little discussion. Neither Vice Mayor Len Kreger nor Commissioner Mike Lednovich proposed additional budget cuts to further reduce the millage rate from the adjusted rollback rate to the rollback rate, despite their previously expressed desire for further budget reductions. Kreger did opine that he believed that the fleet rotation schedule could be put off a year.
The Budget and the proposed FY2020/21 millage rate will be formally presented at the first of two legally mandated public meetings on September 8, 2020. The second public meeting is scheduled for September 22, at which time both the Budget and the millage rate for the new Fiscal Year, which begins October 1, are scheduled for adoption.
Although Nassau County has tentatively adopted a flat millage rate — the same rate as levied for the current year — the FBCC declined to do the same for the City. This meant that instead of adopting the flat millage rate proposed by the City Manager of 5.8553, which would have provided sufficient funds to begin significant pay-downs on Golf Course and Marina debt, Commissioners on a 3-2 vote adopted the tentative millage rate of 5.4683 mills, the adjusted rollback rate. The one-year conservation millage levy of .5 mills was removed from the proposed City tax, as promised.
In order to reduce the City Budget to reflect the adjusted rollback rate, approximately $1.5M in cuts were required. The City Manager presented cuts to the operating budget during the previous Budget Workshop. However, additional cuts were needed in the Capital Improvement Projects as well. Martin removed from the proposed budget $150,000 in improvements for Buccaneer Field and $230,000 reserved for improvements to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Field. Those projects will be reconsidered in the next Fiscal Year.
The future of a proposed columbarium in Bosque Bello Cemetery is also unclear at this time, since estimates for the first phase of the project came in significantly higher than the $85,000 budgeted in the Capital Improvement Plan.
While most of the City Enterprise Funds are running healthy reserves, the Golf Course and the Marina continue to present problems and require subsidies from the City’s General Fund. Current projections show the Golf Course running a FY2020/21 deficit of more than $1.6M and the Marina deficit in excess of $3M. Work is continuing on Golf Course improvements to improve its revenue stream. The City’s appeal to restore full funding of FEMA’s promised repair expenses resulting from Hurricane Matthew will be filed by the end of August, and a final FEMA ruling is expected by the end of the year.