By Matthew Decker
The City Commission took a “vote of consensus”, voting 4-1 in favor of adopting the tax-increasing proposed FY 2023 budget, at a Budget Workshop on August 4th. The “vote of consensus” is non-binding, as it is only a polling of support. The final vote will occur at one of the two final public hearings on September 6th or September 20th. An official vote to adopt the budget must be held during a properly advertised meeting under the Florida Sunshine Law. The City Attorney affirms that, “The Commission did not vote.”
During the Budget workshop on August 4th, 2022. The Fernandina Beach City Commission chose to conduct a “vote of consensus” on the proposed budget for FY 2023. The proposed budget for FY 2023 has a millage rate of 5.3330 mills and results in an 11.78% tax increase for Fernandina Beach property owners.
At the end of the budget workshop, Commissioner Chip Ross made a motion to approve the proposed millage rate and the budget as written. City Attorney, Tami Bach, warned, “We cannot adopt a budget, we have two public hearings [left], which have to be advertised…we advertise this as a budget workshop, so that may be why we don’t have a lot of people here.” Commissioner Ross responded, “Let me rephrase it, I would like to take a vote of consensus to see if we can go forward adopting the current budget with the current millage rate.”
The proposed budget and millage rate for FY 2023 was approved with a 4-1 “vote of consensus”, with only Commissioner Bean voting No. Commissioner Bean had previously noted over one million dollars worth of extraneous line items in the budget.
City Attorney Tami Bach may have warned against voting by the City Commission, because voting on proposed budgets or other measures during a workshop (an insufficiently advertised meeting) is illegal under the Florida Sunshine Law. When questioned about the Commission’s “vote of consensus”, Mrs. Bach replied, “The Commission did not vote since the meeting was a budget workshop. [There are] No violations of Sunshine Law when polling Commissioners during a public meeting. The 2 public hearings and votes on millage rate and 2022-23 Budget will occur on Sept. 6 and Sept. 20.”
The full meeting video is available, here. For the “vote of consensus” refer to the 50:00 minute mark.
Matthew Decker is a Co-Founder of Citizens Journal Florida, having set up some of the technical and social media infrastructure. He also developed sourcing for some of its municipal government and business content. He is an Aerospace Engineer by trade. He has worked in NGO’s performing civic activities. He originally hails from Ventura, CA