City Tax Debate Continues


Costs are going up and jobs need to be done, so despite the anti-tax local political culture, the Fernandina Beach City Commission is continuing on a path toward a millage rate the state defines as a tax increase, but is the same rate commissioners approved for the current fiscal year.

“It’s not the world of politics (that defines it) as a tax increase,” Commissioner Bradley Bean said at the commission’s latest special city meeting. “It is defined by the state of Florida that it is a tax increase. That’s what we have here. The state of Florida defined — that’s the definition of what a tax increase is. Frankly, to be honest with you, yes, you point out that all of our tax are capped at just 3%.”

Bean is running against fellow commissioner David Sturges to be the city’s next Mayor.

“Under Florida state statutes, the proposed operating millage rate of 5.333 generates revenues that exceed revenues generated by the ‘rollback rate,’ which the rollback rate is 4.7709, and constitutes a tax increase,” City Manager Dale Martin said at an earlier City Commission meeting on the issue. “Under state statutes, that’s defined as an 11.78% tax increase.”

Commissioner Chip Ross noted the millage rate wasn’t really a nearly 12% tax increase because of “Save Our Homes” tax caps in state law, and how current commissioners and other Fernandina Beach homeowners will be paying lower rates because of that law.

Bean said passing a 5.333 millage rate will result in higher rents for people in poverty. Nassau County is already prohibitively expensive for renters, something exacerbating a labor crisis in county schools and the service industry.

“I will point out to you that we have all agreed that we need to grow and enhance our parks and recreational spaces, we have to keep our streets safe and clean, we have to protect our trees and the environment,” Ross said.

“Every one of us voted, agreed, that we need to increase the wages of our workers in our city, and that’s about a $2 million bill. I will insist to you, if we go to the rollback rate, which is ‘no tax increase,’ which is what you’re advocating, you have to come up with $1.85 million worth of budget cuts.”

If Bean or someone else would put $1.85 million in specific cuts on the line, Ross said he would consider the rollback rate. The majority of the commission continues to back the proposed rate, though, as it’s seen as necessary.

“This is the first year, maybe, in many years, that we have a legitimate capital improvement plan that came to the city, which included a lot of costs you could say were deferred, and we are funding those,” Vice Mayor Len Kreger said.

“That was my decision to move with the 5.333 millage rate, to move forward with that. We don’t need to be continually cutting and deferring maintenance. We’re already a little bit behind — we need to catch that up. When you bring in the issue of the pay raises, which were deserved and necessary just to keep staff, I think the current millage rate is where we need to be based on the budget submitted.”

Another vote on the millage is set for Sept. 20.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Alyce Parmer
Alyce Parmer (@guest_66004)
1 year ago

The city has annexed other high value properties on the island to increase its tax base. Annex the entire island and you don’t have to raise taxes. People at the south end enjoy the benefits city residents do, but don’t pay for them; and the vast majority of those properties can afford to pay city taxes. That’s the fair solution.

DAVID LOTT(@dave-l)
1 year ago
Reply to  Alyce Parmer

Alyce, the City does not have the power to force a property owner to be annexed into the city as it must be a voluntary annexation. Now the city does use a little bit of a carrot/stick approach if a property lies outside the current city limits but desires to be connected to the city water/sewer service, they can sign a voluntary annexation agreement whereby the commit to being annexed into the city when their property adjoins another property in the city limits. Until that time they will pay the 25% premium on their water bill that other non-city residents pay

Tom smith
Tom smith(@high-n-dry)
1 year ago

This increase is just ridiculous. It is not political as stated. It is pure economics. How dare Mr Ross suggest that 1.8 million should come from Mr Bean. As usual his snarky, unproductive attitude serves no one except his personal agenda. According to Mr Ross, just keep building the kingdom, we can just do without.

Missy Jean
Missy Jean(@missyjean)
1 year ago

We desperately need people in political positions who actually understand economics

John Stancin
John Stancin(@stancinieee-org)
1 year ago

Constantly deferring maintenance will lead to expensive repair/replacement. Pay now, or pay more later.