Guest: Use ad valorem tax instead of assessments and fees

Bill Jones, as president of the St Augustine Beach Civic Association Board of Directors, forwarded a copy of an open letter to Historic City News which he sent to the City Commission of St Augustine Beach yesterday.  The letter addresses the current budget deliberations and their thoughts on how the City should approach funding its operations in the coming fiscal year and beyond.

As you attempt to balance the budget and maintain our quality of life, we believe there is only one correct path. We believe a small millage increase is fair and more palatable when compared with other options. The feedback we have received shows the community is not interested in being nickeled and dimed with fees and charges. And the idea of an assessment is unacceptable.

An assessment is no more than a regressive tax that places the same burden on everyone no matter what their income or property value.

The Commission has one purpose, and that is to serve the resident taxpayers. The budget is your most important tool. The amount of money raised and how it is spent should focus on the quality of life, health, prosperity, security, and enjoyment of our beaches and parks.

It is obvious to all that the tourist industry imposes as much cost to our quality of life as it provides employment and revenue.  When this equation becomes unbalanced, budget deficits are inevitable.

Taxpayers aren’t thrilled, as they face both increased costs and a diminished quality of life. The development of the tourism Industry, without improvements in infrastructure, harms the quality of life and visitor experience as well.

The Commission must balance the budget in the face of this growth. Getting it wrong could lead us down the grim path taken by other beach communities. Getting this right will take resolve!

Operating a city is akin to operating a fleet of ships. Navigation is the key. It’s time for the Commission to steer us away from fees and assessments.

The Commission should raise the millage so those with less wealth or living on fixed incomes are not asked to make the same contributions as their wealthier neighbors.

The answer is clear and present, the question is, does this Commission have the resolve?