— Steve’s Marketplace —
Editor’s note: Contributing columnist, Steve Nicklas, expresses his views and insight on various topics in Marketplace.
Everyone is familiar with the symbols B.C. and A.D. pertaining to historical dates, but the letters may soon be juxtaposed. A new acronym may be A.C. – defining “After Coronavirus.”
And how we will define the period following the devastating virus is anyone’s guess – but preparing for a recovery is imperative. So counties/cities around Florida are responding in a variety of ways.
The date from which everything revolves is April 30, when the statewide stay-at-home order expires. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has appointed a task force to look at reopening state activity at that time.
From there, things could go in as many different directions as the lines on a map. For instance, in Okaloosa and Pinellas counties, elected officials are looking at reopening the beaches there – on a limited basis. Officials there had restricted the use of the beaches to stall the virus.
Counties in Northeast Florida have not really addressed reopening their beaches. Certainly, Amelia Island is not the same without access to our 13 miles of pristine beaches. Several counties around the state are allowing only exercise activities like walking or biking on their beaches, particularly for residents. We could do something similar here.
In Jacksonville, city officials are holding steady on their shut-in order and will maintain beach closures. Nearby St. Johns County is following Jacksonville on most emergency issues, including with the shuttered St. Augustine Ampitheater.
However, St. Johns County officials are facing a petition to reopen their beaches for limited hours. More than 11,000 people have signed the petition on the change.org website. To complicate matters, the highest concentration of Coronavirus cases in Northeast Florida is in the northern part of St. Johns County.
DeSantis has not issued an order to close the beaches around the state, leaving the decision to cities and counties. A lawsuit challenging his decision went as high as a circuit court judge, who recently dismissed the case. An attorney from Santa Rosa Beach argued that DeSantis’ failure to close the beaches endangered other Floridians.
There are financial issues that override the reopening of state beaches, however. This involves the reassessment of municipal budgets due to the sudden drop in tax revenues, especially from tourism (which is non-existent right now).
Even Florida lawmakers may have to return for a special session to address the sudden change in anticipated tax revenues. The state just adopted its new budget, but things have changed dramatically since the legislative session concluded in March.
Locally, Nassau County and Fernandina Beach officials have hardly commented on the drastic decline in tax revenues. One Fernandina Beach commissioner, Mike Lednovich, responsibly brought up the pressing issue at a recent meeting and suggested a freeze on hiring and on new projects. Lednovich should be applauded for his fiscal frugality.
We must confront and address the reopening of our local economy, from the beaches to small businesses to hotels and restaurants. And how we remedy the rampant job losses experienced in this critical “After Coronavirus” period.
Steve Nicklas is a financial advisor for a major brokerage firm who lives and works on Amelia Island. He is also an award-winning columnist. His columns appear regularly in several newspapers in North Florida and South Georgia, and on his website: www.SteveNicklasMarketplace.com. He has also published a book, “All About Money,” consisting of some of his favorite columns over the past 20 years. The book is available at local stores and on Amazon. He can be reached at 904-753-0236 or at [email protected].