“City plans to raise taxes on youth sports by as much as 100%” – An opinion

By Matt Badiali
August 20, 2021

The disfunction between the City of Fernandina Beach and the Nassau County took an ugly turn this week. In order to “Send a Message” to the county, the city will now charge county children much more money to play ball.

Oddly, not a single child from the county spoke up at the meeting.

Several commissioners argued that other fees were too high. Impact fees, Commissioner Sturges pointed out, were too high. Phew, the construction industry in the city has a champion.

However, all seemed in agreement that taxing youth sports was necessary. Those county families needed to hear the message.

The mayor cited swimming lessons as an outrageous exploitation by county residents at the expense of city taxpayers.

A child who lives in the county “only” pay an extra $11 for a week of swimming lessons (that’s actually 25% more than a city resident).

The mayor said:

That’s not enough. They pay no taxes. They pay nothing to support the swimming  pool, the instructor, the cost of maintaining the pool. No. Send the Message. This is a city pool…

The mayor wants to right that wrong by taxing county families.

His message is clear. If you live on the wrong side of that arbitrary line that meanders its way through our community, you will pay more to use city stuff.

But, according to he and other board members, it’s not their fault. The county drove them to tax the kids.

Commissioner Ross said that the challenge is that 1.6 million people per year come over the bridge, use our stuff and don’t pay. It’s a burden on the city.

I took that to mean, all those tourists who sneak in to sign up for Little League are wearing out our facilities.

Ross went on to say that the county came up with a ten-year recreation plan of $140 million, none of which would go to the city.

Both he and the mayor told the audience that it was the county’s fault. The county commissioners told the city council to “raise your fees”.

In their view, it’s the County Commissioners forcing them to tax the kids…

Confused yet? I am. Frustrated? Me too.

I’d like to see the City’s proposal to the County for a share of the recreation budget. It’s not that I don’t believe that the City asked for money…I’d just like to verify how it was done.

And I don’t disagree that the city should get money from the county to offset their use of facilities paid for in part with city taxes. I think there is a better way to get there, than the current plan.

I strongly disagree with taxing youth sports to “Send a Message”.

I’m left with the conclusion that, while we can afford to put guards and gates on our beaches, we can’t afford to let all the kids play ball.

Please let them all know, City and County, that taxing our kids isn’t okay.

By the way, I couldn’t make this stuff up…See for yourself here: https://fernandinabeachfl.new.swagit.com/videos/130600

Section 8.1.

Editor’s Note: Matt Badiali is a former Little League board member and volunteer at Elm Street.

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