Citizens for a Better Nassau
By Bill Gingrich, Chairman
October 30, 2019
“This data shows that our county is still wholly dependent on residential property taxes to fund local government. Economic development, like the commercial and industrial development that is occurring west of the island, is critical to broadening and diversifying our tax base.” Bill Gingrich
As another fiscal year comes to an end, we thought it important to show just how vital economic development is to Nassau County. To do this, we wanted to analyze property taxes collected and how they have changed over the last five years. To do this, we obtained ad valorem tax data from the Nassau County Property Appraiser’s Office for 2015-2019, and we asked that it be divided by property category (residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural and other), as well as by region (defined as Amelia Island, east of I-95 to Amelia Island and west of I-95).
First, some top line data. In 2015, the total ad valorem taxable value of all property in Nassau County was $6.4 billion. In 2019, this total value increased to $8.7 billion – a 36 percent increase over those five years. Based on those values, total property taxes paid in 2015 were $111.7 million, which rose to $154.7 million in 2019. Therefore, during this same period, total taxes received by the county increased by 38.5 percent.
If you break the changes in total taxes we just went through down by region, you can see that over the last five years, total taxes from the Amelia Island region increased 34 percent, while those in the I-95 east to Amelia Island region increased 53 percent and west of I-95 increased 38 percent. These changes are driven partly by millage rate increases, residential and non-residential growth, and, to a lesser degree, property value increases, since a large proportion of the residential units are homesteaded.
In 2015, Amelia Island accounted for 64.2 percent of all county taxes collected. In 2019, Amelia Island continues to pay the lion share of taxes, but it has now decreased slightly to 62 percent. Not surprisingly, the largest change, both in terms of total taxes paid as well as percentage of overall contribution to the tax rolls (21.8 percent in 2015 and 24 percent in 2019), came from east of I-95 to Amelia Island. Whereas, the total tax percentage from west of I-95 remained unchanged over the five-year period and makes up 14 percent of total county property taxes.
The change in the I-95 east to Amelia Island region reflects the fact that our overall growth is moving west of the island and, in particular, we’re seeing substantial increases in commercial development in Yulee and Wildlight. This is important because industrial and commercial development cannot receive a homestead exemption, nor can it be capped, like a primary residence, under the Save our Homes Amendment to the Florida Constitution.
What has remained relatively constant over the five years we examined is that residential property taxes make up about 85 percent of total taxes paid. As a percentage, commercial and industrial development continues to pay between 12 and 13 percent of total taxes. The remaining roughly 3 percent of property taxes come from the agriculture and other categories.
Anyone reading this should realize just how important economic development is to Nassau County. This data shows that our county is still wholly dependent on residential property taxes to fund local government. Economic development, like the commercial and industrial development that is occurring west of the island, is critical to broadening and diversifying our tax base.
On behalf of Citizens for a Better Nassau County, I’d like to thank Laura DiBella and the Nassau County Economic Development Board for their discipline and commitment to attracting private capital investment to our county. We must never waver from this commitment in order to broaden and diversify the base of taxpayers, become less reliant on residential taxes to pay for government infrastructure and services, and to better insulate our county economy from economic downturns.
Bill Gingrich is a retired GE executive and chairman of Citizens for a Better Nassau County.