Island Issues

Are Escalating Taxes Sinking Our Island Paradise?

Are Escalating Taxes Sinking Our Island Paradise?

Are we losing our island paradise?

(The following commentary was submitted by Dr. Gerald (Jerry) Decker, a regular local guy who pays his taxes, mows the lawn, and takes out the trash. Dr. Decker moved to Fernandina Beach a little more than 15 years ago from Fairfax, Virginia, where he and his wife raised their (now adult) two sons. He had a career as an IT executive as well as the opportunity to work on Capitol Hill. While serving in the Army in the Vietnam era, he obtained a PhD in Mathematics that has served him well professionally. Dr. Decker has also served on the Fernandina Beach Marina Advisory Board.)

There is that danger for many, as local property taxes continue to rise year after year, creating a real financial burden for many residents, with some actually forced to move. Paying for the wear-and-tear caused by a tsunami of tourists, as well as the exploding cost of government, is becoming an unreasonable burden. It is time for local politicians to fully understand and respect the taxpayers who quietly, peacefully, and consistently pay for government services.

Here are some key elements that define the profile of our small resort town and its’ citizens:

  • Crime rates are 10% lower than Florida average.
  • Cost of living is 9% higher than Florida average.
  • Real estate prices are 65% higher than Florida average.
  • Median income is $64,000.
  • Median age is 57 years.
  • Persons 65 years and over—30% and rising.

What emerges is a clear picture of the real taxpayers in this small city by the sea. Largely people who are nearing the end of their working life or have moved here after having lived their younger years in another part of the country, and who are either retired, living on a limited income, or semi-retired, supplementing their retirement with full or part-time work. Many are also retired military—thank you.

These citizens are drawn here by the magic of Florida, and the charm of Fernandina Beach, to enjoy a pleasant, peaceful, and rich life away from the rush and stress of raising a family and working long hours to earn a living—simply seeking a little bit of Paradise.

Not activists, they simply expect their local government to provide essential services and safety. They are willing to pay their fair share for those services and will not complain even when the cost of those services keeps rising year after year—but who speak quietly about the ever-increasing burden, and no clear plan for lessening it. They do not descend on City Hall demanding change or else—some call them the silent majority—and are only heard on election days.

While a few have owned their home for 25, 30 years or more, many have not, and are being routinely challenged to pay large city and county property tax bills. For them, especially those on a limited income, a $4,000 or $5,000 or even higher tax bill represents a significant annual expense—for someone having a median income of $64,000 that is almost 10%–a major impact on their quality of life! A sort of “mortgage” that never gets paid off and goes up without end!

Property tax in Fernandina has risen significantly over the last 13 years. A home appraised at $287,000 in 2009 has seen this tax increase by over 55%, even with the protection provided by the Homestead Exemption and the annual assessment cap. The time is near when families will say “I cannot afford this.” Anger is beginning to develop over this attitude that local government cannot reduce spending in any significant way.

For how long, City Commissioners, will you try our patience? When will you realize you are making this Paradise an enclave only affordable by wealthy outsiders? It is time, as we emerge from the Great Pandemic, to take action and bring property tax under control—find other sources of revenue to help carry the burden of being a Paradise.

Now more than ever, local government managers and politicians need to clearly understand the citizens they serve, their resources, their hopes, and their dreams for a fulfilling life on this beautiful barrier island. Keep Fernandina Beach a unique historic community for everyone—not just a privileged few. It can be done; it must be done.

***

Things I wish I’d said: “I have been referring to ‘the January 6 hearings,’ but will in future use the more accurate term ‘Democratic National Committee Telethon.’” – Ann Coulter.

***

Guilt By Association: I’m almost embarrassed to mention to folks that I was once a member of the mainstream media for fear of being associated with the irrelevant and disgraceful crowd that now claim to be legitimate “newsgatherers.”

I was a daily newspaper reporter many years ago when injecting an opinion, omitting facts, or popping altered quotes into a news article to slant the story were offenses that quickly resulted in you joining the ranks of the unemployed.

Today it appears it’s just the opposite.

A once highly respected news gathering organization that has lost all credibility is the Associated Press. There’s no longer anything admirable about the AP. Based on its recent record nothing this organization reports can any longer be accepted as fact. Its reporting is sloppy, inaccurate, and biased.

Earlier this week for example an AP story out of Miami “reported” about Democrats attempting to purchase Spanish-language radio stations in Florida, a move not popular among the conservative Cuban community there.

The AP claimed it interviewed Miami Radio Host Marie Flores on Wednesday, June 8, and quoted her in the article. The problem is that Ms. Flores has been dead for two years.

Intentional blunders like this one are a major reason Americans can’t trust the legacy media. Where are the editors? It would have taken less than five minutes to look up Flores and realize she is dead, but an editor didn’t take the time to do so before publishing the article. Why are the reporter and editor still employed at the AP?

The biased mainstream media are outraged about the possible Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade and provide daily coverage of protests in front of the justices’ homes. But they ignore the fact the protests are illegal and the attempted assassination of Justice Brett Kavanaugh. During last Sunday’s news programs not a single network, other than FOX, mentioned a word about the arrest of an armed lunatic who admitted he came from California to kill Kavanaugh. The media continue to keep making themselves irrelevant and disgraceful.

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DeSantis Popularity Growing: Forbes ran a story last week headlined, “The Curious Case Of Rebekah Jones’ Suspension From Twitter.” Tallahassee “whistle-blower” Jones has been suspended from Twitter permanently. It appears she bought most of her followers. So that giant twitter following she had was phony baloney.

The former state government employee who helped set up the state’s dashboard for tracking Covid cases was charged with hacking into the state’s computer system, a charge she denies. She was fired from her state job and is now seeking a Congressional seat in Florida’s First District, claiming she’s a whistle-blower.

While Jones’ credibility tumbles Governor DeSantis is more popular than ever, passing legislation that protects Florida’s children from the left’s bizarre and dangerous ideologies, a move that appears to be extremely popular among state voters.

A bill now under consideration includes a “combined reporting” law that will result in in making Disney pay $600 million more in taxes. This is money that can be used to give tax cuts to middle and working-class Floridians instead of woke corporations like Disney. Floridians like that idea.

DeSantis is one of the most popular Republican politicians in the country and often mentioned as a possible 2024 GOP presidential nominee.

Disney has wisely shut up following DeSantis’s speedy punishment of the company with a bill stripping it of its special state tax benefits. If the governor is willing to take on Disney, which employees nearly 80,000 people in Florida, he is willing to tackle anyone.

Florida residents appear to be solidly on the side of the governor, who is infuriated by companies “that come to Florida for its low taxes and limited regulations and then try to take advantage of the friendly business environment to impose a California radical agenda on us,” says the governor’s candid spokesperson Christina Pushaw

***

Delusional DC Ditz: I’ve been a spokesperson for corporations and have done the same for candidates running for public office. I’ve experienced pressure when facing a crowd of journalists anxious to get a “scoop”,  a sound bite, or asking unexpected questions.

I’ve seen some exceptionally good spokespeople and some awful ones. One of the lamest  was Jen Psaki who famously said: “Businesses won’t raise prices just because we raise their taxes.” The White House went from terrible to awful with  the appointment of  current White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. Most of the time you only see the top of her head as she is constantly bent over a briefing book reading to journalists in a mind-numbing monotone. This clueless woman actually told a reporter in the White House briefing room this week that the country was experiencing a “historic economic boom.”

Yep, despite the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunging into a bear market, driven in large part by 40-year high inflation, record-high gas prices, and growing concerns about a recession, this oblivious gal thinks we’re in high clover. Good grief, she’s as incoherent as her boss and the rest of his inept staff down the hall.

***

Speaking Of Spokespeople: If I ran an organization in northeast Florida that was seeking a candidate to act as a spokesperson I’d make my first call to Nassau County Public Information Officer Sabrina Robertson, one of the best in the business hereabouts. Ms. Robertson’s a skilled writer whose press releases omit the traditional patronizing BS and include only necessary and factual information. She’s quick to respond to questions and correct any rare factual errors. Her quarterly and annual reports about the county’s departments and updates on its projects are masterpieces that many corporations could use as guides and residents actually find informative and useful. I hope the county appreciates her talents and pays her accordingly, a sympathy I rarely express for most government employees.

***

Do Something! Anything! Why isn’t our 4th District Republican Congressman John Rutherford holding press conferences at the Jacksonville Airport every time one of the Biden Expresses flies in there loaded with illegal aliens from Texas that are then bussed to who knows where?

When I wrote about these flights last August Congressman Rutherford told me he couldn’t do anything about them because the GOP was in the minority. That’s not good enough.

Governor Ron DeSantis is fed up and is taking action. Our popular governor intends to formally approve a bill that will reroute illegal migrants to left-leaning states, including President Joe Biden’s Delaware, along with sanctuary states. He’s also targeting contractors that transport the illegals.

Illegals deplaning in Jacksonville.

“I’m gonna sign a bill very soon. It will be effective July 1. The contractors are gonna get penalized if they dump illegal aliens in Florida from the border,” said DeSantis on Thursday.

Under the DeSantis plan, Florida will soon have the resources to redirect illegal migrants crossing the U.S-Mexico border via large caravans to “places like Delaware and other sanctuary states.”

Why don’t Congressman Rutherford and Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott get together with DeSantis and call a press conference at the airport and explain how they’re jointly going to fix this Biden-created disaster?

DeSantis pulls no punches when discussing Biden’s open border policy. “There’s a massive caravan that’s coming towards the southern border right now. And what is Biden doing? He’s fumbling around on late-night TV shows, and he needs to get in the game here, and he needs to defend our country’s sovereignty because that’s gonna absolutely get overwhelmed — not just Texas — but it’s gonna overwhelm a lot of other communities throughout the United States of America,” DeSantis continued.

“Now, this is the worst it’s ever been, and the result is you have fentanyl pouring into this country. You’ve got sex trafficking, you’ve got all kinds of really, really bad stuff,” DeSantis said.

“That would not happen if you didn’t have the border open and this stuff pouring in in record numbers,” added DeSantis, while characterizing Biden’s policies as “destructive.”

“We have a responsibility to be fighting back,” said DeSantis.

If you have children or teach in Nassau County you already know how this illegal invasion is negatively impacting our schools. The schools don’t have enough foreign language teachers and the English-speaking kids are getting short changed because of the alien kids crowding into the classrooms. I’ve heard horror stories from parents and teachers. Not only are our kids suffering but local tax payers are getting hosed.

It’s time our elected officials besides Governor DeSantis stepped up and did something besides telling us to wait until November.

***

Drinking, Dining & Dancing:  With gas prices almost as expensive as beer the imaginative  Pajamadave Voorhees is offering his 12 South 2nd Street PJD’s Beer & Wine Garden customers an opportunity to win a gallon of the 89-octane liquid by purchasing a one dollar raffle ticket, more than four dollars less than a gallon of the stuff at a local gas station. The weekly winner will also receive a gallon plastic container containing the pricey fuel. You don’t have to be present to win. PJDave is donating the proceeds from the raffle to the Counsel on Aging’s Meals on Wheels to help them defer the cost of deliveries to our needy neighbors. I don’t know if it’ll have Oompa music but the new German Beer Garden on South 3rd Street will have German beer, knockwurst, bratwurst, and authentic German potato salad along with other Teutonic edibles say the two German brothers, Greg and Mark, who are working on the new “gasthaus” across the street from the Florida House. The brothers hope to have their beer garden – which sits on the site of the long-shuttered Pi Pizza joint – open by July 4.  Piano man John Springer and drummer sidekick, Rob Taylor, will perform this evening, Friday, June 17 and tomorrow, Saturday June 18, at the Atlantic Ave Marriott Hotel ‘s pool bar, 4-8 pm.

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12 Comments

Bill Inman - 21. Jun, 2022 - Reply

Thank you…

Steven Crounse - 18. Jun, 2022 - Reply

In the middle of the Jan6th hearings, old brother Dave has taken a page form Fox news. ‘Crickets’ Just look down at your Shoes, and say nothing.

Eddie Brown - 17. Jun, 2022 - Reply

I am a supporter of Ron DeSantis and Casey as the First Lady. I do not support Donald Trump as his time has come and gone. We need honest politicians ready to solve real problems. We do not need a liars like much of the crop coming out of Washington.

william payne - 17. Jun, 2022 - Reply

Merrick Garland is about as corrupt as Eric Holder. No surprise he’s so silent in all of this.

Lawrence Piper - 17. Jun, 2022 - Reply

When Fernandina voters approve of something like Pentanque courts at the Marina then wonder why their taxes go up….

Gordon Reilly - 17. Jun, 2022 - Reply

I often referred to former District 4 Representative Ander Crenshaw as the “Invisible Man” in that one rarely saw or heard anything from him until it was time for the election. Sorry to see John Rutherford follow in Ander Crenshaw’s footsteps as in the “Return of the Invisible Man”. This is what happens when an elected representative comes to believe himself a bureaucrat, a semi-permanent fixture of government who makes no waves that might possibly reflect poorly on one’s public exposure.

Peg Dickinson - 17. Jun, 2022 - Reply

Jack Early, for local info and for his opinion of the local restaurants. I usually skip over his national ideas as he is so biased it’s sad. I try hard to see both sides, and agree with Reps on some subjects, and Dems on others, I just like to be given both sides so I can decide, not just one.

L Dawson - 17. Jun, 2022 - Reply

I wonder if the German potato salad at the German Beer Garden is better than mine. Thanks for the heads up Dave. We will give it a try.

I see you triggered a Karen. Good job.

Peg Dickinson - 17. Jun, 2022 - Reply

I have never watched FOX news, NBC at 6PM and CBS at 11PM are my choice. I saw several bits on the man who wanted to kill Kavanaugh, they showed his house and the guards around it, even Kavanaugh peeking out the window. So, if I saw that several times, I guess the only media outlet that didn’t show it was ABC. Talk about getting facts Dave, give it a try…..

Jack Early - 17. Jun, 2022 - Reply

Peg if you don’t watch Fox, why would read Dave’s blog?

Christine Corso - 17. Jun, 2022 - Reply

Peg: As the first section of today’s blog outlined some serious financial issues for residents to consider, it was surprising that you found only a minor topic to criticize. Substantively and in hindsight, what broadcast, or cable news network reported the attempted murder of a Supreme Court Justice is trivial, and not worth any display of self-righteousness. Of greater concern is why the Biden Administration Attorney General has not been enforcing the law (In this case, Title 18, Section 1507 of the United States Code). The DOJ under Garland has become a political tool. It has investigated and suggested parents were domestic terrorists, but currently has taken no action against Jane’s Revenge, a self-proclaimed terrorist group. Jane’s Revenge has already committed acts of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims (meeting the definition of terrorism) and has recently declared “open season” on any pro-life organization. Nevertheless, on this we have yet to hear anything from the Administration or DOJ.

Richard Norman Kurpiers - 17. Jun, 2022 - Reply

Right-wing media and politicians stir conservatives into a frenzy and as is typical, the viewers and voters hit social media outlets parroting whatever they’re told. FYI, the FBI is currently investigating Jane’s Revenge. Another FYI: The FBI falls under the US Department of Justice, is responsible to the attorney general, and reports the findings of its investigations to US Attorneys across the country.