Beach management funding plan narrowed to barrier island, but plan likely to be delayed

"It's too much [to do]," Commissioner Leann Pennington said. "This should have been coming to us back in November."

Flagler County Commissioner Leann Pennington. Photo by Sierra Williams
Flagler County Commissioner Leann Pennington. Photo by Sierra Williams
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The Flagler County Commission has tentatively narrowed the beach management funding plan to the county’s barrier island communities, but the commissioners are concerned the plan won’t be approved for another year.

Any plan the commission goes with will need to be approved by the local municipalities it involves, among other steps. The beach management plan will take an estimated $10 million to fund, but after state and federal funding, the county will only need to fund an estimated $7 million of that.

At a June 3 meeting, a consultant presented a special assessment tax that would implement a tiered tax across Flagler County to fund that $7 million.

At the June 10 meeting, the commission received a presentation that narrowed the special assessment tax on the barrier island communities only but also split the cost with the county from the Tourism Development Council and the county’s general fund. The county will fund $3.5 million of the needed $7 million while the remaining $3.5 million will come from a tiered special assessment from the barrier island communities, according to this presentation.

PFM Consulting Firm's Stan Geberer brought the proposed barrier island assessment to the commission after the commission asked to see what nearby municipalities do to fund their beach management plans. 

The new proposal splits the cost of the $3.5 million across multiple tiers. First, in a 50-50 split, $1.75 million of the $3.5 million will be funded by base rate. The base rate, applied to every property, is determined dividing how many properties there are by the $1.75 million, Geberer said.

Then the remaining $1.75 million would be split across three zones on the island: oceanfront properties, properties east of State Road A1A but not on the ocean, and properties west of S.R. A1A. Funding from these zones would be a tiered system that took into account each individual property's property value.

There were multiple ways to split the $1.75 million across the three zones, with oceanfront properties paying more than the other two zones. 

The County Commission seemed to tentatively agree to go with a split of 60-25-15 across the three zones, with the oceanfront property zone in total paying 60% of the remaining $1.75 million. 

If this proposal is eventually adopted, a property owner will pay the base rate — a proposed $167.54 in this scenario — plus the an individual rate formulated by their location and property value. People who own higher valued properties and properties along the ocean would pay the most.  

But that ratio is by no means fixed. The commission only agreed on the number to allow staff to begin the outreach process and communication with the barrier island municipalities and begin educating the public.

"The proper course is education," Commissioner Andy Dance said. 

Commissioner Leann Pennington said she only agreed on a ratio for the sake of further progress. In her opinion, she said, the county can't agree on a way to fund plan without being further along in its own budgeting plan. 

The $3.5 million the county is responsible for if this proposal is later approved is not guarunteed every year. County administrator Heidi Petito said that $2 million of that amount is in the TDC's tourism bed tax fund and is earmarked for the renourishment already. 

But the $2 million is an anomaly, commissioner David Sullivan said: the county only receives $1 million regularly from that fund. To regularly have $2 million from the TDC fund, the commission will need to increase the amount that goes into it from the tourism bed tax.

Pennington also pointed out that if the remaining $1.5 million of the county's responsibility is to come out of the general fund, the county will need to first discuss where that money is coming from, whether it is from cutting other programs or projects or dedicated ad valorem tax to it. 

There's too much to do to properly get this done on the condensed timeline, she said.

"It's too much [to do]," she said. "This should have been coming to us back in November."

Commissioner Donald O'Brien also pointed out that, on the other side of it, the amount of additional costs that would rest on barrier island residents is substantial. There are some people who are already having a tough time as it is, he said.

“It’s just layering on a lot of dollars,” he said. “…It’s concerning.”

Overall, the board was in agreement that the plan is likely not to be funded by the fall deadline. Instead, they resolved to take their time developing the plan. 

The expedited path is not the one the county necessarily needs to go down, Dance said.

"If we don't have public trust and buy-in in what we're doing, then we're failing," he said. "...We follow our instincts, and we follow what we need to do, to properly educate the public and bring them into the fold."


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