City budget process is broken – An opinion

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.

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Genece Minshew
Genece Minshew (@guest_58695)
3 years ago

This is not the only broken process within the city. Much chance is needed to get.

Ben Martin
Ben Martin(@ben-martin)
3 years ago
Reply to  Genece Minshew

Some say a problem throughout Florida is City and County Commissions have been infiltrated by leftists who moved here from northern population centers. A whole new crop of politicians is needed.

Robert S. Warner, Jr.
Robert S. Warner, Jr. (@guest_58713)
3 years ago
Reply to  Ben Martin

Some of us are actual GOP voters, Ben. Your use of “leftists” to describe anyone with a different opinion than yours is making you less than credible. We have an excellent, functional City government – with informed and concerned Commissioners and a City Staff at all levels that care about all of us who live, work, and play here. I gave up on a “Lord of the Flies” approach to government a long time ago, after watching those that shout louder finally get their time in office to actually “do” something positive And, by the way, my family on my father’s side has roots in Florida going back to the late 1850’s.

Ben Martin
Ben Martin(@ben-martin)
3 years ago

Democrats and Republicans might fight over things like minimum wage and abortion. But when it comes to the really important issues like banking and war there generally isn’t much difference. Not all Democrats are completely bad. Consider Tulsi Gabbard and her non-interventionist stance. She was shunned at the DNC I have read. I registered as Republican in order to vote for Ron Paul in the primary back in 2008 and 2012. He got my attention by educating the public that inflation is a tax, and it hurts most the people who don’t have much. What I do see is that by and large is that officials who support Mask Mandates tend to be leftist in their thinking no matter what there party affiliation may be. Mask Mandates are part of big government. There is no real health emergency. Nobody would even know there was a “pandemic” unless they were informed of it by the media. These mask mandates have nothing to do with protecting the public. It is about obedience and control. This is necessary to implement the “Great Reset” that brings in global government. Sounds crazy I know. But please do some research and see what you find. World leaders do meet in Switzerland – and they have plans.

Robert S. Warner, Jr.
Robert S. Warner, Jr. (@guest_58724)
3 years ago
Reply to  Ben Martin

What does this have to do with the competence of Fernandina Beach City government?

Ben Martin
Ben Martin(@ben-martin)
3 years ago

It has to do with Democrats and Republicans. You stated “Some of us are actual GOP voters”

It is time for all good folks to come together from everywhere to put the kabosh on medical totalitarianism. Big public health programs go hand in hand with Marxism. We have separation of Church and State. We should have separation of medicine and state.

Respectfully, please note that your Florida lineage on your father’s side doesn’t have much to with the competency of local government either.

Perry Anthony
Perry Anthony (@guest_58703)
3 years ago

This watchdog group has been doing an outstanding job detailing the big issues with the yearly budget of our current Fernandina Beach City Manager Dale Martin.

EJ Kelly
EJ Kelly (@guest_58726)
3 years ago

…from what I have seen, the problem is rooted in the commissioners, who seem to have gotten into their role due to satisfying their ego and vanity, and not due to a desire to effectively manage the town. This is not unusual for local governments, but it is time for FB voters to find alternative commissioners at both the local and county level.