By Patti Clifford
7-23-22, Fernandina Beach
First, I apologize for the length of this email but thank you in advance for reading through to the end.
Please vote on Tuesday for the Adjusted Rollback rate as the Tentative Millage Rate.
Look at the Calculated Receipts column of the historical Property Tax Information on Page 2 of the Proposed Budget Book. The income from Property Taxes has gone up on average 10% for each of the past six years and the 2022/2023 tax increase in dollars is 14.025%. This is NOT sustainable! The City must learn to live within its means.
Impact on Citizens
A 5% increase in Stormwater Fees – I understand. The initial rate was low based on studies.
A 5% increase in Water and Wastewater on top of an increase in Property Taxes – OUTRAGEOUS! And for what? So you can transfer big bucks to the Golf Course and Marina? I do not believe either of these funds has ever had a rate increase of more than 3% in the past – that is the maximum rate increase I would recommend for the FY 2022/2023 budget.
Non-homesteaded properties will feel the brunt of any tax increase. The City Manager made the point that Lakeside and the Vintage Apartments are now in the top 5 taxpayer category. Who does this impact? Senior citizens who may be on a fixed income and renters who may be making little more than minimum wage. You can bet both facilities will be significantly increasing their rates. These are the PEOPLE that a tax increase and utility fee increases will directly impact.
PEOPLE are dealing with inflation, including the price of gas, and significant drops in their investments.
What are you saying to the PEOPLE with this bloated budget?
I once again implore you to look at the headcount – particularly in the General Fund.
Get an historical report – see where additional positions have been added over time.
These increases in staff on top of the pay hikes are not sustainable.
The Proposed Budget uses $2.4 Million of General Fund Reserves. The plan starts with a Reserve of $7.667 Mil and ends with $5.263 Mil. Is this methodology sustainable?
I was surprised to see how many line items for the current year projection exactly equal the current year budget. An accurate projection is a key in analyzing the request for funds in the upcoming year.
The Transfers from the Wastewater Fund to the Golf Course and Marina are robbing the Utility Fund and leaving Wastewater Reserves low – dangerously low? Maybe. I wonder how bond raters will feel about these transfers and the rate hikes.
Thank you for serving our fine City. This is the toughest part of your job – digging into City finances and understanding the impact your decisions have on the citizens.
After serving for just over 14 years as the Comptroller, Ms. Clifford retired in January 2019 from the City of Fernandina Beach. She worked for 4 City Managers and 3 or 4 interim managers. Her experience provides extensive and unique insight into how the city works, particularly the finances.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal Florida.