Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
September 5, 2015 3:42 p.m.
During an advertised Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) Special Meeting on September 3, 2015, that lasted less than 5 minutes and which attracted almost no public interest, Fernandina Beach Mayor Ed Boner read the following state-mandated legal notice to citizens:
After asking for and receiving no public comment, Mayor Boner recognized Commissioner Pat Gass, who said that she wanted to go on the record saying that she would not vote to approve the millage rate or the FY2015/16 Budget. She said that she wanted to adopt the roll back rate, as opposed to retaining the same rate as the current fiscal year.
Gass read her reasons for not supporting the two items from a written statement. She read, “First of all the new budget contains a $40K contribution to the Main Street Project, a million dollars of additional debt when we already have $39M in debt. We’ve raised the usage fees. We are increasing taxes by adopting this millage rate if this budget goes through. We’ve had no acknowledgment of our pension debt. We increased our non-profit giving by $39,750. If we need an additional million dollars, we could borrow it from ourselves. We’ve got $4M in reserves, cash forward in the Utilities Department. Instead of going out for a loan, we could borrow it in-house and do it that way. So I’m not voting for this budget for those reasons.”
Gass was the only commissioner to offer comments. Vice Mayor Johnny Miller was the only commissioner not in attendance.
City Manager clarified for the commission that any borrowing request would come forward for consideration as a separate resolution independent of the budget, giving commissioners an opportunity to vote up or down on borrowing.
There was no vote required at this meeting.
After the meeting, City Comptroller Patti Clifford and City Manager Joe Gerrity verified that the budget requires a majority vote to pass. That vote will be taken later in September. They also verified that whereas technically it is possible for the city to borrow money from the Utilities reserve fund, city auditors frown upon such action.
Editor’s Note: Suanne Z. Thamm is a native of Chautauqua County, NY, who moved to Fernandina Beach from Alexandria,VA, in 1994. As a long time city resident and city watcher, she provides interesting insight into the many issues that impact our city. We are grateful for Suanne’s many contributions to the Fernandina Observer.