It’s budget time for the city of Fernandina Beach, and while there are workshops and an entire millage meeting to come, City Commissioners got to work on a proposed budget from city staff that would hold the millage rate constant, but which would lead to increased revenue for the city.
“The proposed budget is based on maintaining the exact same millage rate of this year, which is 5.3330 mills,” City Manager Dale Martin said. “Under Florida state statutes, the proposed operating millage rate of 5.3330 generates revenues that exceed revenues generated by the ‘rollback rate,’ which the rollback rate is 4.7709, and constitutes a tax increase. Under state statutes, that’s defined as an 11.78% tax increase.”
The budget cuts the equivalent of seven full-time positions, but the city’s also down 10 people in jobs that remain vacant.
“To be very clear, that is an 11.78% increase over the rollback rate of revenues,” Martin said. “That is not a tax increase of that magnitude on individual property owners. In general terms, calculating what would be the proposed tax rate for the five City Commissioners, your average increase based on maintaining the same millage rate is less than $50 for the year.”
City staff pegged the increase for homesteaded properties at $16 per $103,000 of taxable value. The estimated increase for non-homesteaded properties is $37 per $107,000 of taxable value, though that could vary depending on aspects of different properties as determined by the Property Appraiser.
Martin noted the increase in assessed value for non-homesteaded properties is limited by state law to the Consumer Price Index, which is 7%.
The word “tax” is practically a swear word in deeply conservative areas like Fernandina, and especially so when paired with the word “increase,” despite the rate remaining the same. Commissioners only recently received the budget, which didn’t yet have the capital improvement plan.
“We’re seeing different numbers from what the consultant said to what the city said to what’s on the capital improvement plan, so that we get that straight,” Vice Mayor Len Kreger said.
“I just got the budget (Monday) night, as I believe all of us, and I’ve looked at it. At the budget workshop we’ll have a chance to really look into detail. I have some questions, but I’ll address it at the workshop.”
Commissioners are scheduled to set the tentative millage rate Tuesday, with budget workshops set for Aug. 3 and 4.
There will be a public budget hearing Sept. 6. On Sept. 20, there will be another budget hearing and a vote on adoption of the budget ahead of the beginning of the next fiscal year on Oct. 1. All of the meetings will begin at 6 p.m. on their respective days.