FERNANDINA BEACH WEATHER

Nassau County’s under investment will come back to bite taxpayers – An opinion

Citizens For a Better Nassau
Jimmy L. Higginbotham
Robert W. Spaeth
Co-chairs
August 17, 2017 12:45 p.m.

It would probably be a safe bet to say that you’ve heard a local politician boast that Nassau County “has a fully funded five-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP),” suggesting the county is able to address all of the capital investment needs of its growing population and maintain a high level of service. However, this claim is highly misleading. At best, Nassau County has a two-year CIP of projects the county can actually fund, and that is only with the help of grants from the state.

For Fiscal Year 2017-18, the county has identified $51.1 million in capital needs (84 total projects) and is only able to fund approximately $4.2 million (19 projects) – that’s a nearly $47 million shortfall. This leaves 65 un-funded projects that we’re kicking down the proverbial road – some of which are very urgent projects that will have no chance of even being considered in the near future. In fact, some capital grants awarded by the state are currently in jeopardy because the county is unable to fund the local match required. If the county does not come up with the required matches, these funds are given to other counties.

While not a new phenomenon, county assets are depreciating and deteriorating much faster than the county can maintain them. The level of capital under investment is becoming alarming. Assets now are depreciating at approximately $22 million per year, while the county is only able to invest about $13 million per year in road paving, infrastructure, and other capital maintenance and/or replacement. Do the math. This is unsustainable and you can rest assured this under-investment will come back to bite each of us as taxpayers.

So the next time you hear a politician boast the county is in great financial shape and “will be debt free in 15 years,” don’t believe it for a second. The ONLY way Nassau County “will be debt free in less than 15 years” is if we never intend to pave our nearly 200 miles of unpaved county roads that are expensive to maintain, invest in repaving projects of other roads, build park and recreation facilities to meet the needs of our growing population, or replace high-mileage fire, rescue and other emergency vehicles.

The Great Recession was devastating to Nassau County and all Florida counties that did not have a broad and diverse tax base. The challenges we face are not the making of our current county commission, but these are the people that will now have to find a solution to our fiscal instability, have the courage to tell the whole truth, and begin to solve the backlog of problems we face instead of kicking the can down the road time and time again.

Editor’s Note: Retired Nassau County Commissioner Jimmy L. Higginbotham and Retired Businessman Robert W. Spaeth are co-chairs of ‘Citizens for a Better Nassau County.’ For more information, please visit CitizensforaBetterNassau.com.

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