A Primer for Nassau County Property Taxes

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.

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Klynt A. Farmer
Klynt A. Farmer (@guest_56052)
4 years ago

Mr. Gingrich, I have some simple questions for you and your group.. What happened to the Nassau governmental fiscal cliff your group of “citizens” announced in 2016? Where is the former chairman that started this group (whom is also a former commissioner that helped craft the comprehensive land use program)? Is he in hiding? The NCEDB claims to have a folder full of accolades when it comes to bringing industry to our county, however my taxes continue to trend upwards…? When will this trend end? Is the mixed use development not doing the job? If the county attorney/county manager is correct when he was cited as saying that the reason for the ad valorem increases is growth, why isn’t the growth paying for itself? Are the impact fees not curtailing the impact? What are we leaving behind for the next generation of young people? Is it transparency and clarity or is it confusion and disparity? You be the judge.

Bill Gingrich
Bill Gingrich (@guest_56055)
4 years ago

Mr Farmer:

Since its existence, Citizens for a Better Nassau County has supported the principal elements of the 2008 Fishkind Fiscal Sustainability Study for Nassau County which pointed out that the capital budget was not sustainable and made numerous recommendations. These included: Reserve the One Cent Tax for infrastructure, update and continue to update Impact Fees (significant), develop a true Capital Maintenance Program,and fund certain long term capital programs with debt. Very few of the recommendations have been picked up (although recently Impact Fees were increased-good!)
The lack of significant capital planning by Nassau County, while it approved tens of thousands of residential units over the last 25 years is why historic growth has failed to pay for itself. The result of this has been an enormous capital deficit that led to the property tax increases we’ve incurred. Everything we’ve warned about has now come home to roost. Thankfully, due in large part to our efforts to highlight the inadequacies of the impact fees, the county has finally addressed those. You’re welcome!


Betsie Huben
Betsie Huben(@betsie-huben)
4 years ago

I think this is the tail wagging the dog. Increased economic development means more folks moving to the county to fill jobs the are being offered. More folks require more services like parks & recreation, police, fire, EMT and schools. That cost should be borne by the folks who bring those increased needs into our area. Perhaps impact fees are not high enough to close the gap?

John Calkins
John Calkins (@guest_56058)
4 years ago

Mr Gingrich’s reply is right on the mark. Growth should actually do more than simply fund itself, it should benefit from the laws and synergies of large numbers. This however is not JUST a matter of impact fees and regulated taxes. Yes those are critical elements which do needed to be constantly assessed and updated (which does not necessarily mean raising fees). Population density when serviceable height (number of stories) isn’t a factor (the case here), should, when properly managed, provide more for less.

At the last commission meeting, the county attorney reiterated a statement from the Sheriffs Department that “the more population we have, the more deputies we need.” That is not an absolute truth. What might be more accurate would be the more crime or emergencies we have the more deputies we need. Personnel, equipment, response times, services offered or procured, communications, all must be factored in and these are management functions. Government has rarely (and sadly) in our domestic history employed the finest in management minds, knowledge and discipline. That history is shifting favorably as government now generally has total compensation packages (compensation, benefits, healthcare, retirement) which can exceed those offered by private industry. Expectations should rise with those changes. Private industry knows how to hold down costs, while government tends to accept cost increases and simply raise taxes. That is inadequate management.

The county picture here is big, getting bigger and significantly more complex. Holding our elected officials and their management staffs accountable is every bit as important as assessing and adjusting taxes, tax diversity and impact fees.

John C. Calkins (MSM, MBA, retired executive in administration and strategic planning of 3 different Fortune 500 enterprises) and a 4 year resident of Nassau County (east of 95 but short of the island).