By Jack Knocke
Common Sense Fernandina Beach
August 26, 2020
When I got involved with this process last year during the 32% increase in the millage rate, I was late to the party and chalked it up to naivety on my part for how the city and the budget process works.
This year, I got involved early. Many from the Common Sense Fernandina Beach group got involved also. We had an expert in Patti Clifford, former Comptroller, observing the process closely. We made our message clear that spending is out of control and should be reined in and that taxes have gone up too fast in our small beach community. Many residents met, emailed, spoke, and responded in social media. They encouraged me to deliver their message to the City Commissioners and asked how they could help.
It seems that I’m still confused about how the city budget and millage rate process works. The commissioners direct the City Manager to present a budget at the rollback millage rate, yet he presents an initial budget far exceeding the rollback rate. The revised budget does not cut expenses and instead draws down reserves. Instead of Dale Martin submitting a base rollback budget and justifying any additional spending, he expects the commissioners to CUT from his bloated budget-making commissioners uncomfortable having to CUT instead of having them approve items beyond the base budget.
This process is broken.
The process is not transparent to residents,
The process is focused on incremental spending rather than efficiencies,
The process is short term focused,
The process is hidden behind the cloak of consultants and auditors to support a false narrative
The process ignores major spending errors including the marina assuming that it will all be financed and will go away
Many difficult budgeting decisions were avoided by just robbing the surplus. Citizens of Fernandina Beach should be outraged that our City Manager refuses to cut spending at a time when it is required. City Commissioners must direct the city manager to present a budget that does not tap reserves as those monies will be needed for COVID related revenue shortfalls or Marina replacement funding.
We need to fix this, or this city will never be managed properly.
If you are upset about this process, show up at City Hall at 5:00 on September 8th. We need to show up. Otherwise, they just assume we all agree. Chip Ross at the August 24th MAB meeting justified his Marina Upgrade vote by saying that no citizens objected, so he assumed that everyone agreed. He was wrong.
Jack has been an entrepreneur in telecom and technology for many years – most recently focused on Internet of Things. He has worked as an entrepreneur in Verizon and in fast growing startups. He is currently a consultant helping IT businesses transition into new technologies.
Most recently, Jack has been thrust into the political activist role as he has observed major issues with how the City of Fernandina beach is being run. Earlier this year, Jack along with several others founded Common Sense Fernandina Beach. CSFB has been referred to as a watchdog group. It’s a group of citizens who are interested in ensuring transparency, smart spending, control of taxes and preservation of a quality way of life on the island.