Editor’s note: Contributing columnist, Steve Nicklas, expresses his views and insight on various topics in Marketplace column.
Things aren’t always the way they seem. But sometimes they are.
If it seems your property taxes went up this year, it’s because they did. Despite a period of almost unmatched prosperity, with the Nassau County economy booming and property values zooming.
Still, some local municipalities raised their tax rates (which are applied to your property’s value to determine your taxes). The higher the property value, the more taxes you pay.
Even more troubling, if you have higher property values in tandem with increased tax rates, you pay that much more – like a double dose. This happened here in several instances.
Local government agencies seized upon the gold rush and panned for more gold. Few residents noticed. Hardly anyone attended tax hearings. So many officials saw a green light – to go for the gold of more tax receipts.
Anticipating higher revenues from the higher property values, Fernandina Beach slightly reduced its tax rate this year. This is noble, and a contrast to others (although it resulted in a tax increase due to the higher property values).
However, counterparts at the county went the other way. Nassau County raised the property tax rate, the gas tax, and the municipal services tax for residents and businesses outside city limits. And the property tax hike is substantial, approaching a record increase (there are annual caps on property valuations, but not on tax rates).
This is not to minimize the infrastructure needs here (for roads, drainage, curbs and sidewalks, etc.). These are real, and unaddressed, especially outside of Amelia Island.
If the additional county tax revenues are invested directly into infrastructure, this could be acceptable. The county is obviously growing. But if the money is stashed into a big pot with everything else, then it likely becomes government waste (for more staff, more payroll, more gadgets).
The local school board held the line on its tax rates. They are the same as last year. Like with Fernandina Beach, this is still a tax increase because of the higher property valuations. Either way, our school district is operating soundly.
On a smaller scale, but just as important for residents there, the towns of Callahan and Hilliard went in opposite directions. Callahan significantly rolled back its tax rate – while Hilliard implemented a sizable increase (both by percentage terms).
In summary, whether you live in Callahan, Hilliard, Fernandina Beach or in the unincorporated parts of the county, you felt a tax increase. Residents and businesses alike. You see, the county taxes apply to everyone, whether inside or outside a city.
If the widespread handling of tax rates seems unsettling, while property values rise dramatically, that’s because it is. It is what it seems to be.
Steve Nicklas is a financial advisor and a Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor for a regional U.S. brokerage firm who lives and works on Amelia Island. He is also an award-winning columnist. His financial columns also appear in newspapers in North Florida and in South Georgia, and on his website at SteveNicklasMarketplace.com. He has also published a book, “All About Money,” consisting of his favorite columns from the past 20 years. The book is available at local stores and on Amazon.com. He can be reached at 904-753-0236 or at [email protected].
Investment Perspectives with Janney’s Mark Luschini
You’re invited to an exclusive presentation featuring Mark Luschini, Janney’s chief investment strategist. Join us for a discussion on “Seeing the Picture When the View is Less Than Clear,” an outlook on the economy and markets and the primary factors that could influence investment performance in 2019. Luschini is regularly seen on CNBC, Bloomberg TV and Fox Business News.
The complimentary presentation will be from 5-7 p.m. on Feb. 20 at the Nassau County Chamber of Commerce, 961687 Gateway Blvd., Fernandina Beach. Cocktails and Hors D’oeuvres will be served. For information or to RSVP, call the Chamber of Commerce at 904-261-3248 or the local Janney office at 904-572-0265.