Editor’s note: Contributing columnist, Steve Nicklas, expresses his views and insight on various topics in Marketplace.
— Steve’s Marketplace —
To say the November elections are important is an understatement, like saying Amelia Island is a popular destination or Fernandina Beach is quaint and historic.
But you cannot overstate the importance of this year’s elections at the local and state and federal levels. Like the imperative re-election of Florida’s outstanding governor, Ron DeSantis, or electing Fernandina Beach’s own Aaron Bean to a new U.S. House of Representatives seat. Or injecting new blood into a defective federal government.
However, a fire-alarm urgency exists at local levels here. The over-spending among Nassau County governments has reached epic proportions, with no end in sight. That is, unless we elect frugal candidates to run the county, the city, the schools.
Elections have consequences, and they revolve around relevant issues. To help local voters, here are critical and/or controversial issues with each government agency for your review.
- School Board: Would you support buying a vacant property for $3.6 million in taxpayer funds without vital information, like the current appraisal? Especially when the $3.6 million price was twice as much as the property sold for a year earlier. This act of careless spending has become a thorny issue for school officials. The reported inability to attract and retain quality teachers is also a pivotal issue, but that’s not just here.
- Nassau County: The expansion of the county government has been overwhelming; however, the population here has also grown, just not at the same zeal or pace. County officials must live within their means, and to resist spending lavishly during this economic boom that could become a bust during a recession, or a slowdown. This deserves introspection during this election season.
- Fernandina Beach: City officials have the most glaring issues. Here, the relative growth of the city government – employees, benefits, excessive purchases – dwarfs the school board and the county government. While the county has boomed, the city’s population has hardly budged. Not its budget, however.
The budget has grown exponentially, with 50 full-time employees added during City Manager Dale Martin’s short tenure. In addition, we’ve had a fiasco in getting reimbursed $6.2 million by FEMA for marina repairs, along with a hefty $500,000 purchase of a Top Tracer system at the city golf course beset with more complications than the Brittney Griner situation, and a similar outlay on a new park on Simmons Road that is seldom used. There is more quirky spending. Like on a costly sea wall or re-opening Alachua Street or a $4 million airport terminal, with a new fire station going in next door at a similar price.
Then there’s the rash decision to try to shut down Brett’s Waterway Café based on flimsy evidence about the safety of the pier it sits on. Or the prospect of raising taxes this year despite receiving $3 million in federal give-a-away funds (county officials also got significant federal money).
So there is no shortage of issues on the table this election season. Many of them revolve around exorbitant taxing and spending among city/county officials – and their federal brethren. As tax revenues pour in, amid soaring property values and rampant development, local officials spend them with impunity.
Yet that is an another of those annoying understatements.
Steve Nicklas is a financial adviser with a national brokerage firm who lives and works on Amelia Island. He is also an award-winning columnist. His columns also regularly appear in several weekly newspapers in North Florida and in Southeast Georgia, and on his website at SteveNicklasMarketplace.com. He has published a book, “All About Money,” of his favorite columns from the past 20 years. The book is available on Amazon. He can be reached at 904-753-0236 or at [email protected].