Citizens for a Better Nassau
May 27, 2022
The county’s irrational aversion to debt financing of long-lived capital projects has resulted in negative consequences for taxpayers and our quality of life, and it must end. This repeated mistake has cost our community. It has been clear for a long time that Nassau County does not follow best practices in government finance when it comes to its capital budget, despite the advice of a government finance expert, who in 2007 conducted an economic sustainability study.
To start, our area is the fifth fastest-growing county in a rapidly growing state, and the county’s lack of employing best practices has resulted in a massive capital deficit in funding for an array of infrastructure needed for a county that has experienced this type of growth for decades. The great myth here is that the need for infrastructure is only a recent phenomenon due to our population increase. However, the lack of roads, parks, and other infrastructure west of Amelia Island has existed for more than 20 years and predates the recent population increases and the widening of S.R. 200. Yet, we paid cash for the new sheriff’s complex and emergency operations center, public school projects and roads, and we continue to avoid general obligation bonds for capital expenditures all the way through a historically low interest rate environment.
Second, the lack of bond financing has cannibalized the county’s operating budget to pay for capital projects, making the operating budget unsustainable and requiring multiple tax increases on current taxpayers for several years in a row. Despite multiple tax millage increases coinciding with a period of huge property value increases, the county remains relatively broke and still has a huge capital deficit.
The third, and probably the most galling consequence of paying cash for long-lived capital assets, is penalizing current taxpayers by laying the burden on us for subsidizing future growth. One of the axioms of proper growth management is that future growth should pay for itself, as the nature of most capital projects is that they serve multiple generations. Every future projection of population in Nassau County is that we’re going to have far more citizens in the future than we have today – shouldn’t future generations that benefit from these capital investments help pay for them? Financing long-term capital projects without the use of debt is unfair to current residents. It means that current residents pay for benefits for new residents, and this strategy has been largely condemned by studies of outside experts the county has hired.
Finally, the county desperately needs to broaden and diversify its tax base by attracting private capital investment for industrial and commercial uses, but I am perplexed as to why the county hired an economic development director when we already have the Nassau County Economic Development Board (NCEDB). Are we building a taxpayer-funded fiefdom? Observers of economic development in the county would point out that it has an extremely poor track record when it comes to landing large private capital investments and job-creating projects. The county chased away the NCEDB’s last chief executive who worked tirelessly to put Nassau County on the map. For this reason alone, we need to question having an economic development function reporting up through the county manager and commission. Do we want to continue to politicize the one effort that can help us broaden our tax base and address our jobs-to-housing imbalance?
Once the county starts actively addressing these issues, we will all enjoy a positive effect – the relationship between the quality of our future growth and our fiscal health improves. We have the ability to make our county less reliant on residential property taxes to fund all government services while increasing our resiliency to future economic downturns. This would tremendously benefit current and future residents, and we will all benefit from the county taking serious and measurable steps toward addressing these issues that have hamstrung us for years.
Actions speak much louder than words. Let’s hope the county addresses these major issues as soon as possible.
Bill Gingrich is a retired GE executive and chairman of Citizens for a Better Nassau County.
All excellent points. Meanwhile, the county fritters away tens of thousands of dollars each year for air conditioned guard shacks to monitor folks driving on the beach, hiring staff to make sure only folks with expensive vehicles can drive on the beach, and employing a front end loader to drive up and down the beach smoothing out the sand so the heavy 4 wheel drive vehicles can carve ruts in it (so it’s ready to be smoothed down again)
. Salaries, equipment purchasing and maintenance, electrical bills and gas for vehicles — all thrown away so some folks don’t have to walk 50 feet to the beach from the existing parking lots.
Totally agree. This is also impacting the large inward migration. Further, this will be unstainable with the growth of Wildlight.
This article is an opinion piece, not news, and should be noted as such.
Lacking that notation, the article should at least include the website for “Citizens for…” so readers may investigate the Mission and Coalition Membership for themselves. https://citizensforabetternassau.com/
You’re still here as Editor, how wonderful for us all! Great to hear from you, and thank you!
The reason for our poorly planned growth is a decision to attract as many tourists to Nassau county as possible. Cruise ships Nuts. Residents see major increases in traffic and lines at restaurants post office and grocery stores. Friends from all over the US report that they have seen Ads promoting our island. To offset a decline in revenues, Increase our sales taxes and our property taxes and stop advertising to grow the hoards that makes life here less pleasant
John – This area could be a center for marine trades, ocean research, and estuarian education. It isn’t because of our area’s continued infatuation with tourism and uncontrolled real estate development at all costs.