Editor’s note: Contributing columnist, Steve Nicklas, expresses his views and insight on various topics in Marketplace.
— Steve’s Marketplace —
Nassau County municipalities are forecasted to receive hurricane-strength windfalls of tax revenues again this year.
It’s because Nassau continues to be one of the fastest-growing counties in the state. The total value of county properties increased by a whopping 22 percent over last year – to nearly $26 billion.
After backing out non-taxable properties (like schools, municipal buildings, parks, etc.), the taxable value here grew by a robust 14 percent. Most of the increase is from construction in Yulee and from high-dollar properties on the south end of Amelia Island.
In response, we can only hope the big three municipalities – the county government, the school district and Fernandina Beach – prepare and spend responsibly. Each sets its own property-tax rate each year.
“They’re all getting a windfall, so they should really be thinking about rolling the tax rate back,” said Mike Hickox, county property appraiser. Eleven years ago, when Hickox took office, the county’s total market value was $9 billion.
As property values explode here, so does government spending, however. Hickox can’t remember a municipal body here rolling back its millage rate to avoid a tax increase. In other words, restraint is non-existent.
While the county government and the school district have not addressed plans for the newfound money, Fernandina Beach officials are salivating. In a recent meeting, city commissioners moved forward on several million-dollar projects.
These projects include building a sea wall, relocating the Ybor Alvarez soccer fields, and opening Alachua Street. The latter two projects will cost up to $2 million each. There is not even an estimate on the elusive sea wall. Yet they share a common quality — they are not urgent.
Fernandina Beach officials have had difficulty maintaining what is already here, without adding to it. And in coming years, the city’s population will be stagnant. The city is mostly built out.
Regardless, the city will be receiving substantially more tax revenues this year, through a 13 percent increase in taxable value. By the looks, this new money is already spent.
The school district will gain the most in new tax revenues. But no other municipality has as much need.
Due in large part to a one-mill tax increase approved in a referendum, the school district will receive $29 million in additional tax revenues this year. However, about $16 million is from the referendum and earmarked for teachers’ salaries.
Of smaller towns here, Callahan and Hilliard experienced impressive growth. Callahan’s taxable value grew to $160 million, a 17 percent increase; Hilliard came in with a similar, yet surprising, 17 percent growth.
Callahan and Hilliard have an advantage going forward. It’s called vacant land, and lots of it.
Of the 1,000 people moving to Florida each day, 100 of them are moving to Northeast Florida, according to reports. It’s in pursuit of the wide-open spaces.
“It’s still an attractive place to move to,” Hickox said. Even with the real hurricanes we experience.
Steve Nicklas is the managing partner of Nicklas Wealth Management in Fernandina Beach. He is also an award-winning columnist. His columns also regularly appear in weekly newspapers in Northeast Florida and in Southeast Georgia, and on his website at www.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 has also done financial reports for area radio stations and for National Public Radio in Jacksonville. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at 904-753-0236.