By Michael Miller
The Trend in City Expenses
The topic of the escalating expenses of Fernanda Beach city government has been a hot one lately with all the discussion of the new budget and consequent proposed tax burden. The city’s website shows 2019 actual expenses as $51,753,980, compared to 2022 budgeted of $70,980,328 for a $19 million increase, or 37% over 3 years. The city population is estimated at 13,364 in 2022 and the annual population growth rate has been running around 1.25% for the past 10 years. (according to worldpopulationreview.com)
Beach Rescue As One Example
Speaking of growth of city expenses, consider the lifeguard expansion. Once only at Main Beach and by Sadler Rd., the operation continues to expand to several other beach entry points. The Fernandina Beach Fire Department declined to return my call requesting for budgetary data and beach policy. My statements here are therefore based only upon my personal observations.
We see lifeguard towers, pick-up trucks, jet ski, ATV and expanding service territory. There is a flag warning system of yellow and red, but no green. Even in calm conditions the yellow flag is flown. Lifeguards have kept people out of the water if it is rough. I do not remember surrendering responsibility for my well being to government entities.
Speaking of government overreach, do you recall that early in the onset of the plague, the city commission prohibited walking on the beach? This is an example of increasing government power at the expense of individual freedom. I had been under the mistaken impression that freedom of movement was a God given right.
Well, Back When I Was A Kid…….
When I grew up, a person learned to swim, was guarded by family and friends and swam within his limits. If you were a strong swimmer, you ventured out even into rough surf. If you weren’t, you stayed out of the water or bathed in tidal pools. I, or my parents were responsible for my safety. When did it become the responsibility of city government, at taxpayer expense, to protect the incompetent or ill advised from drowning?
Is this view extreme? I am old school, libertarian and was comfortable when there was freedom, self responsibility, and limited government. The expansion of this operation is symptomatic of government mission creepand the Peter Principle: the level of work rises to fill the given workforce. I would prefer to see the trend revert to limited government.
How Could Expenses Be reduced?
Here is a solution for how to reign in expense at the beaches: Provide protection at say, Main Beach area and Sadler road. Post signs at the other beach entrances stating: “Lifeguard protection at XXX locations only. Swim here at your own risk.” Then let citizens decide what level of risk they wish to assume by voting with their feet. Those who choose city protection will frequent the appropriate locations. Presto! Downsizing and cost reduction for city taxpayers.
This type of thinking applied to other areas of local government will expand freedom while shrinking bureaucracy and reducing unnecessary and creeping expenses that weigh down our tax paying residents who may have other ideas about how to spend their money.
What other government services have undergone expansion which many would elect not to finance? How could these be modified, reduced or eliminated? Department Heads? Dale Martin? City Commissioners? What are your thoughts?
Michael Miller, A Co-Founder of Citizens Journal Florida is a fierce defender of Liberty. The retired Fire Lieutenant/EMT from NY has been in FB for 8 years. He is a sailing captain and instructor for Windward Sailing. He dabbles in theatre, photography, geopolitics, markets and now writing. Look for his writing here and at: https://firesail.substack.com/
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.