Watchdog Group Says County Finances Improving

Citizens for a Better Nassau County has released an updated study showing that the county is making progress in moving its primary tax base from residential housing to industrial and commercial activities. That, in turn, protects residential taxpayers from increases.

A 2016 study by the organization found that the county’s tax base was much more dependent on its residential tax base than surrounding counties, counties of a similar size and to Florida as a whole. It also showed that the anemic growth in industrial and commercial land use development had created a much greater reliance on residential property taxes.

“We’re excited to be releasing an updated study that shows where Nassau County is today,” said Bill Gingrich, a retired GE executive and the chairman of Citizens for a Better Nassau County. “The 2016 study stressed the need for the county to diversify and broaden its tax base and decrease its dependence on residential property taxes to fund all government services in order to become more fiscally sustainable, and we wanted to see if the county has made any progress toward doing so.

The updated study found the following:

While Nassau County still remains more reliant on residential development than other counties in the state and the region, the county has seen an increase in retail and office development, which has helped to create a more diverse tax base.

Office occupancies are also strong, insulating the county budget somewhat from declining office property values seen in other parts of the country.

In turn, millage rates have declined modestly since 2016, in part due to the support of a growing tax base.

All commercial development – industrial, retail and office – increases fiscal strength more than residential uses do, with 25 acres of retail generating over 26 times the net fiscal impact of 25 acres of single family residential.

“While the industrial development that is needed to further diversify the tax base hasn’t borne out yet in the current economy with high uncertainty, development costs and interest rates, the county is now well positioned for it,” said Gingrich. “The county now has the means to do so, as both the Crawford Diamond, southwest of Callahan, and the Wildlight Commerce Park are ready for development.”

“Diversifying our local economy and tax base benefits everyone, creating an economy more resilient to future economic downturn, high-wage jobs for current and future generations of citizens, lower residential property taxes, a higher quality of life and a more fiscally sustainable county,” said Gingrich. “Our county commissioners and staff deserve a lot of recognition for helping to get our county on the right fiscal path. We hope they keep up the great work!”

To learn more about Citizens for a Better Nassau County and to read the studies, visit citizensforabetternassau.com.

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