By Dale Martin, City Manager
The City Commission, through Resolution 2021-20, established a series of goals for the City to pursue. While some of those goals were susceptible to the winds of political change (see my article last week about waterfront redevelopment), one of the goals has been quietly moving toward successful completion: Improve Community Rating System score from Class 6 to Class 3 by January 2024. This is a significant challenge because, of the 263 Florida communities and counties that have a CRS score, as of April, 2022, only five have scores as low as 3 (Ocala, Monroe, and Pinellas County) or 4 (Cutler Bay, Palm Coast). The City’s current score is 6.
The Community Rating System (CRS) is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). FEMA describes CRS as “a voluntary incentive program that recognizes and encourages community floodplain management practices that exceed the minimum requirements of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).” Eligible communities are awarded points for engaging in any of 19 activities organized under four categories: public information, mapping and regulations, flood damage reduction, and warning and response.
The impact of the CRS score to property owners is reflected in discounts to flood insurance premiums. FEMA is currently revising the CRS program through Risk Rating 2.0. This is an effort to set more equitable rates based upon expansive data, catastrophe models and actuarial science. Risk Rating 2.0 affected new NFIP policies in October 2021 and existing policies in April 2022.
Mr. Del Schwalls, the City’s floodplain management consultant, presented information about the City’s CRS effort to the City Commission Tuesday evening.
Mr. Schwalls explained that the City’s current score of 6 provides a 20 percent discount. Under FEMA’s previous Risk Rating 1.0, however, the full 20 percent discount was only applicable to certain flood zones (Zone V and Zone A, both “100-year floodplains”); Zone X (outside “100- and 500-year floodplain”) discounts were limited five or ten percent. Under Risk Rating 2.0, though, the full discount will be available to all eligible properties.
Critical information was provided by Mr. Schwalls that many (56) properties are currently listed on FEMA’s National Violation Tracker (NVT) as “non-compliant.” Those properties will receive no CRS discount until noted shortcomings or violations are mitigated. Due to federal privacy laws, the City does not have a list of those properties: every property should review the flood insurance declaration page and review the “CRS discount” line. If that line indicates “$0,” the property is on the NVT list. In that case, please contact the City Building Department as soon as possible to review your property and policy.
Mr. Schwalls illustrated that at under the previous Risk 1.0 program, City property owners were saving an aggregate $240,000 on their flood insurance policies. Under Risk 2.0, and as the City’s efforts continue to improve the CRS score, the new savings will be significantly higher, perhaps nearly double the current savings.
Many activities contribute to improving the CRS score. These activities include community outreach and information, floodplain regulations, available conservation and open space, stormwater management, planning efforts, and resiliency projects. Due to those activities, the City’s CRS score will likely improve to Class 5 and possibly Class 4 in April 2023, becoming one of the few communities in Florida to achieve that score. A score of 4 provides a 30 percent discount to NFIP policies.
Mr. Schwalls and City staff believe that a score of Class 2 or even Class 1 may be attainable at some time. Those scores provide discounts of 40 percent and 45 percent, respectively. Since no Florida community has reached this level yet, this would be a remarkable achievement for Fernandina Beach.
Thank you to Mr. Schwalls and the many City staff that have been instrumental in this effort. The City Commission, through its efforts to acquire and classify conservation land, has provided additional public leadership for this effort.
Please review your flood insurance policy. Changes to the policy are likely due to Risk 2.0: we live on a barrier island susceptible to flooding. If you have any questions, please contact the City’s Building Department.