Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
March 23, 2015 11:30 a.m.
The Nassau County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) hosted the Fernandina Beach City Commissioners (FBCC) at the Page Governmental Complex in Yulee the evening of March 19, 2015. This was the first joint meeting of the boards as the Amelia Island Joint Local Planning Agency since June 6, 2011. All commissioners except for Fernandina Beach Vice Mayor Johnny Miller attended, along with senior level county and city staff.
Other than the topic of funding beach renourishment (see separate article) one other topic with broad impact was raised by county staff: consideration of an alternative agreement for the County’s existing Municipal Service Taxing Unit (MSTU).
County staff is proposing to reduce the Municipal Services Taxing Unit (MSTU), which came about as part of a lawsuit over double taxation filed by the city in 1982. Both the city and the county have at various times recognized the inequity of the current system. The remedy proposed by the county would consider reallocation of services and funding based on current service levels. The proposal is to raise millage countywide to reflect increased service levels, but to rebate to the city that portion of revenue for government services that the city provides to its residents under its taxing authority. Examples include fire protection, animal control, and law enforcement. This means that the city could receive annual payment of around $1.5M. Money collected for growth management and code enforcement would remain with Nassau County.
The city of Fernandina Beach would then have the option of reducing city millage to reflect the rebate. Meanwhile, municipalities such as Hilliard and Callahan, who do not provide the same services that Fernandina Beach does, would pay for them under this proposal.
County Manager Ted Selby said that the county would like to insure that the city receives its fair share of revenue and to avoid an adversarial relationship that might cause the parties to revisit the settlement of the double taxation suit under guidance of the courts.
Selby and County Budget Director Shanea Jones stressed that the county will enlist outside experts to help in determining the new millage fee and would work with city staff as required to ensure that both parties are in agreement. County Attorney Mike Mullin emphasized the need for both staffs to follow Sunshine Law in dealing with each other.
Neither county commissioners nor the public engaged in discussion over this topic, apparently waiting for more details to emerge down the road. Each elected body will separately consider a resolution approving this course of 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.