Submitted by Adam Kaufman
A Special Report
June 30, 2015 6:00 p.m.
“The view is disturbing” said Chairman Pat Edwards as the Board of County Commissioners were nearing the end of the first of two scheduled Budget Workshops with financial consultants Burton and Associates on Tuesday, June 30, 2015.
In a 90 minute session the County’s consultants, led by Michael Burton, demonstrated that without modification or additional revenue the County’s budget plan for the next 10 years is not sustainable or workable. At best there is a structural imbalance where reserves will fall below County Commission approved minimum levels, there will be inadequate funds to maintain the County’s $789 million dollars of capital assets and there will be insufficient resources to employ needed county workers or to make capital improvements to meet the requirements of an increased population. After completing approved capital projects there are virtually no funds to maintain County facilities and capital assets or to provide for identified needs.
“The future of Nassau County is on that screen we have been looking at,” said Edwards. “The view is disturbing. It is not unapproachable. It is not unfixable. But we have to start making decisions that are not political and not about the past, but where we are going and structuring it in a way we can afford it.”
Burton and Associates was hired to provide a “Comprehensive Integrated Financial Sustainability Analysis” which, in essence, results in an interactive computer model which is intended to allow the County Commission to evaluate different prospective budget scenarios and provides information required to determine the impact of decisions both on the current budget and 10 years into the future.
The computer model displays historical information from the County’s audited financial statements as well as financial predictions for the 10 year period based upon State estimates for population growth and property value, as well as inflationary factors and the current approved Fleet Replacement and Capital Improvement plans.
The assumptions in the model with regard to the increase in property values caused Commissioner Walter Boatright to caution against wholly relying on that supposition. Boatright recalled speculation by State officials as to recovery from the “fiscal crisis” which proved less than accurate. He asked for an additional model that would maintain current property values as a constant or moderate the projected estimated increase in value although it was clear that would further complicate the Commission’s task.
The Burton model is structured based upon the status quo in providing County services. The model’s baseline reflects current service levels, current millage rates, capital improvements that are funded and approved, it continues to allocate the one cent sales tax surcharge to County operations, as opposed to its intend purpose of funding capital and maintenance projects. Given those assumptions the “one cent fund” will be exhausted by 2017 and the fund balance will fall below approved minimums in 2018.
During the presentation it was underscored that without the 2014-2015 increase in millage that the County would be facing an additional $12 million dollar short fall. Burton noted that the millage increase was “essential to the structural balance” in County finances.
Burton was questioned about borrowing for current or future capital projects that have a probable usefulness of 30-50 years. While noting that it is not his task to make recommendations, such funding, he advised, was not uncommon. The concept was one of “intergenerational equity,” he suggested, in that County taxpayers who in the future will enjoy the benefits of a capital project share the cost.
It is expected that at its next meeting the Commission will begin a discussion of the anticipated needs of Nassau County and an analysis, using the computer model, of options to fund those needs.
At the end of the meeting Commissioner Danny Leeper expressed the hope, that because of the magnitude of the issue and the importance of the discussion, that “500 people” would attend the next Budget Workshop.
The next meeting is July 7, at 9:00am at BOCC Chambers.
Adam Kaufman is a semi-retired mediator and attorney. A graduate of Northwestern University School of Law, he was born and raised in the Bronx, NY. and attended NYC public schools, including Stuyvesant High School. He still serves on the American Arbitration Association Labor Panel. From 1994 – 2005, he was Regional Director for the New York State Public Employment Relations Board.
I find, there seems to be a total disconnect between our County Commissioners,Their financial consultant Mr. Burton and our Clerk of the Court and Comptroller Mr. Crawford. Our County Commission is saying “The sky is Falling” and Crawford is saying “Happy days are there again” After reading this Blog, I had a concern of our financial future of Nassau County and we should make some changes, to meet our Budgets. This Morning in the News Leader, Mr. Crawford’s Viewpoint is “Wow, It sure is looking to be a good year for Nassau County” Now I know the Commissioners are looking at a 10 year plan and Crawford is Crowing about our current financials. But boy it’s hard to understand what figures each side is looking at. Do you think, it was just a coincident, that Crawford took the time to wright this Viewpoint today in the Leader?
This assessment may be worth consideration. I’m glad it was pointed out to me.
Steve, you are exactly right that the view from Mr. Crawford and that presented by Mr. Burton (and seemingly echoed previously by Mr. Selby) are totally opposite. Different ways of counting the beans and treating of reserve accounts. But it has to be resolved soon before the millage rate is set by the Commission.
John Crawford has always looked out for the tax payer in his position he runs …I see a lot of growth has come to our once little town just in Yulee not counting the rest of the county there are houses were there used to be pine trees a lot of new neighborhoods and a few houses per acre not just one like it used to be ….so I am sure we are collecting a lot more taxes than if it was still under agricultural ..we were second in growth in Fla. St Johns was first during the boom years..we should and are collecting more revenue than we ever had before I know my property went up this last tax bill so we are heading back up ..there is more growth coming from Rayoneir …Rayland or whatever the are calling theirselves …they had to give us land to build a school because of the growth they have planned that is how taxpayers received that. .so more houses where trees are more tax money to the county so do have more money coming plus values of what is here going up 10 year plan looking good. John Crawford you have lived here and seen this also that is why he knows we need no more taxes it will pay for itself down the road.
Please forward your letter to our esteemed Fernandina Beach city commissioners.Maybe (with one exception) they might learn something.
“Danny Leeper expressed the hope, that because of the magnitude of the issue and the importance of the discussion, that ‘500 people’ would attend the next Budget Workshop.”
I can’t be at the meeting, but I did submit my revenue stream idea to the commissioners by email: