By Cindy Jackson
July 2, 2021
To be an informed citizen, to better understand all that is taking shape in Nassau County, how county government works and explore what some might describe as excruciating budget details, one needs only to visit the County website at www.nassaucountyfl.com/168/Management-Budget.
It is a great starting point. Every department has its own set of presentations, background information, historical data and all sorts of graphs and charts to help put things into perspective including Comprehensive Plans, land development regulations, annual departmental goals and reports – it’s all there.
This is relative to the BOCC discussion of the five-year Capital Improvement Program, or CIP.
A BOCC workshop was held earlier in June (June 14, 2021, to be exact) as “part of the annual budgeting process, the CIP is updated allowing the County to reevaluate its priorities and needs each subsequent year based on the most current revenue projections,” explained a memo circulated to all County Commissioners.
The process is such that projects are recommended by departments, then reviewed and evaluated by the County Manager and Office of Management and Budget, “to ensure the County’s priorities, infrastructure needs, financial capacity, and impact projects could have on the County’s operating budget.” Funding for the CIP is ultimately approved by the Board of County Commissioners.
On June 28, 2021, the BOCC considered and approved the CIP for 2021 to 2026 by a vote of 5-0.
Proposed projects contained in the CIP for 21/22 include:
Amelia Island Parkway/Buccaneer Path Roundabout
Pages Dairy/Chester Road Intersection
American Beach Historic Park
Hilliard Ballpark Improvements
Fire Station 90
However, the passage of the CIP plan did not happen without a bit of what appeared to be uncomfortable discourse when Commissioner Martin took the opportunity to say, “I understand that are a lot of variables in this equation and one of them is the millage rate.” He went on to state that he intended to “keep my campaign promise . . . for a budget that would not increase . . . property taxes” and later stated, “I am opposed to keeping the millage rate flat.”
Other commissioners appeared to be taken aback by Martin’s comment. Commissioner Ford described the CIP as a “wish list” and approving it would allow the BOCC to “pick and choose what we want to fund.”
Commissioner Gray praised the County managers’ office and said, “I’ve got roads that gotta be paved . . . people want things done.”
Commissioner Martin pushed for fellow commissioners to state their position. Said Commissioner Chair Ford, “I am very much in favor of this. If it means flat millage, I’m in favor of that as well. That’s my stance on it and that’s on the record.” Commissioner Klynt Farmer stated he was in favor of a full analysis and Commissioner Bell stated, “I agree with Commissioner Ford, there are a lot of needs in this County . . . I am leaning toward a flat millage rate.”
As to the timing of the process, Budget Director Megan Diehl explained in a follow-up email, “The official budget timeline is set by statute via the State’s Truth-in-Millage (TRIM) process. We receive the certified taxable values from the property appraiser on July 1. From there, we are required to present a tentative budget to the BOCC between July 1-31. This year, we will be presenting the tentative budget at the same meeting where the BOCC will set the tentative millage rate, on July 26th. Once the tentative millage is set, we are then required to file several forms with the State by August 4th, which is how we report the tentative millage rate, maximum millage levy calculation and rollback rate, and the date time and place for the first public hearing.”
In that same email, Ms. Diehl stated, “This is the first time we’ve presented a CIP this comprehensive and this early in the process. The CIP is a subset of the County’s budget so whatever decisions are made regarding the millage rate could possibly affect the CIP as well as the operating budget. I’ve included a link to the 2021 TRIM manual below, which is a very helpful resource in explaining the process, the timeline, and the different terms and acronyms that are used.” That link is https://floridarevenue.com/property/Documents/Regular_Manual.pdf
For more information on the CIP and the projects proposed go to https://www.nassaucountyfl.com/168/Management-Budget.