How Should Nassau County, Florida Balance Its Budget?

What should Nassau County do to balance its budget? The Amelia Island-Fernandina Beach-Yulee Chamber of Commerce wants your opinion.

Map, Nassau County in Northeast Florida
Nassau County in Northeast Florida

EDITOR’S NOTE: Contributing columnist, Steve Nicklas, expresses his views and insight on various topics in Marketplace column.

_STEVE’S MARKETPLACE_

The Amelia Island-Fernandina Beach-Yulee Chamber of Commerce wants your opinion on what the county should do to balance its budget.

It’s another matter whether county officials want your opinion.

Regardless, in tribute to these resolute and sometimes defiant souls, we will print some of these citizen comments (these are not real, but sort of what we expect).

The Chamber will gather the comments (see online Nassau County budget survey) and presumably interject them throughout the upcoming budget proceedings. The Chamber admirably defends local businesses, and this is another attempt in this direction.

After all, a tax increase — currently supported by the majority of county commissioners — impacts businesses much more than homestead-protected residents in our state. Businesses do not receive any of the taxation protection, or do owners of second homes and investment properties.

So let’s insert what residents might, or should, say to county officials about resolving the $11.7 million budget shortfall — either by raising taxes or reducing expenses or using reserves, or a combination. Remember, these are fictitious, but realistic.

Response #1: I live in Fernandina, and I’m already facing another property tax increase from the city. I need for you to raise taxes like I need a Cuban tree frog to show up in my yard. When is enough enough? By the way, can I deduct my city taxes against what I owe the county? — I.M. Tired

Response #2: Do all of the traffic tickets that sheriff’s deputies are suddenly writing count toward taxes? Or are they fees? And where do the ticket payments go? Maybe they should help pay for the grand, new, $10 million sheriff’s office. Speaking of the sheriff’s office, why don’t we cut the price tag in half, and defray costs by using existing facilities and equipment? And put the $5 million in savings toward this year’s budget? — Speedy

Response #3: If the county population has hardly budged over the last 20 years, how has the budget nearly tripled in that same time? Do you think that maybe some of these excesses from your predecessors could be pared back? Maybe reduce spending to where it was 10 years ago? Do you think? — Lost in Thought

Response #4: To add injury to insult (or something like that), my property valuation has increased this year. So I’m going to be paying more in taxes already because of this. Why don’t you follow the plan recommended by County Comptroller John Crawford and endorsed by Commissioner Steve Kelley and just use part of the $40 million in reserves to balance the budget, instead of raising taxes? — Losing My Balance

Steve Nicklas
Steve Nicklas

So what is your opinion, really? Let it be heard during any of the upcoming budget hearings for the county, or the city, or the school board. Your opinions count, every one of them.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Have you heard about the frogs in the news lately?  “Cuban Tree Frog Invasion in Fernandina Beach,” September 9, 2013 Action News Jacksonville’s story and news video.

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A four-week continuing education class, “Investing in Today’s Financial Markets,” will be offered at the Florida State College campus in Yulee on Tuesday evenings beginning Oct. 8, 2013. This class will be from 6:30 to 8 p.m. each week and will cover many aspects of the financial markets, such as stocks and bonds and popular investment vehicles such as mutual funds. It will be taught by local financial advisor Steve Nicklas. The class schedule is: Oct. 8, 2013, Investing in the Stock Market; Oct. 15, 2013, Investing in the Bond Market; Oct. 22, 2013, Investing in IRAs, 401ks and other Retirement Plans; and Oct. 29, 2013, Developing a Financial Plan. The college can be reached at 904-548-4432 for more information.