FOpinions_ Smaller CroppedSubmitted by Robert W. Spaeth
July 23, 2015 7:30 p.m.

There has been an ongoing, fundamental disagreement between the County Clerk and two County Commissioners and the County Management and Budget department and three Commissioners on the financial health and sustainability of Nassau County. The Clerk’s office until recently has projected a very favorable view of the County’s finances and was lately quoted in a news article as stating “Wow! It sure is looking to be a good year for Nassau County.”

I was very pleased that the Clerk has finally come around to agree with the proven view of the Management and Budget Department. At a recent County financial meeting the Clerk was quoted as stating “An awful lot of the things that you’re going to hear today, Shanea [Jones] (the Budget Director) has told you a thousand times before. She was right…………Shanea, I commend you because you are the one that that really led that charge.” These financial projections were then corroborated by Burton and Associates (municipal financial experts) who fully agreed with the Management and Budget department. Lets take a look at some of these key financial findings and projections.

2016
* County expenses will be more than revenues, resulting in an operating deficit of approximately $ 8 million. (Cash- in will be less than cash- out).
* The budget deficit will be made up by using most of the one cent tax revenue fund. (which is supposedly committed to fund infrastructure projects and maintenance).
* Unassigned reserves (set aside for unexpected contingencies) will be zero.
* However the original Capital Plan and the catastrophic fund (hurricanes, etc.) remain in place.

2017
* Another deficit year with zero unassigned reserves, minimal infrastructure projects, zero maintenance funding, 100% use of the one cent sales tax fund for budget balancing,and no available funds for state partnership in road construction projects.

2018 and beyond
* More of the same, except no infrastructure projects or funding for maintenance.

PrintThe one positive note in all of this is the fact, and I hope that this is true, that the key County officials seem to agree on the County’s financial problems and all can work together to manage our sustainability crisis.

There are no more reasons for disagreement. The latest financial projections are now the official Nassau County Management and Budget numbers.

 

Bob-Spaeth-8.24.10Bob Spaeth serves on the board of the Northeast Florida Regional Council and the Nassau Economic Development Board.  

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Steven Crounse
Steven Crounse (@guest_40933)
7 years ago

So why was John Crawford so far out in Left field on this issue? Does the County Government has two sets of Books. I think there’s got to be more of an answer from our elected officials than OOPS! Seems to me, some one has to explain this screw-up. The comptroller should be in the loop on all financial issues of the county that’s his job, and you can’t do that when you don’t communicate with or attend Commission Meeting. Perhaps it’s time to step down. This is inexcusable.

Bob Weintraub
Bob Weintraub(@rukbat23gmail-com)
7 years ago

I take issue with Spaeth’s reporting of Crawford’s earlier assessment. It is my recollection, without doing the research, that Crawford’s point was the overall financial health of the county was good because it had managed its debt. Without Crawford, the commission would have been borrowing money to pay for operating expenses. That has been the crux of the disagreements between Crawford and the commission. The bottom line is County operations and expenses have grown faster than county population. Adverse to tax increase the Commission has been dipping into various funds meant for long-term projects such as infrastructure to finance day-to-day operations. And now they are about to approve spending $1 million to build a “road to nowhere” to help out one developer. It’s some of the commissioners who should step down.

Steven Crounse
Steven Crounse (@guest_40988)
7 years ago
Reply to  Bob Weintraub

With all do respect Bob, my question still is “So why was John Crawford so far out in Left Field” He has only attended one Commission meeting in months. I think that was to defend his spending of $80 or $90,000 dollars on a frivolous lawsuit. I do believe the County Commissioners and the Comptroller must communicate.

Bob Weintraub
Bob Weintraub(@rukbat23gmail-com)
7 years ago
Reply to  Steven Crounse

Crawford wasn’t in “left field.” It depends how you measure an economy. The county has very high reserves, low debt and a very good bond rating as a result. By that criteria the county is in good economic health. The Commission, on the other hand, has a big wish list (fueled by their desire to help developers such as Healan (Crane Island) and Rayonier (Terrapoint City), and to expand the fire dept (former fire commissioner Leaper). That operational wish list exceeds income which leads to projected deficits. Using that criteria Nassau is an economic trouble.

Steven Crounse
Steven Crounse (@guest_41152)
7 years ago
Reply to  Bob Weintraub

Bob, You just answered this financially challenged persons question. So if our County Commissioners are prudent with County financial resources over the next few years and don’t sponsor every proposed project coming down SR 200 we could stay in budget? Next thing your going to tell me, is that there is politics in play with our tax dollars.

Steven Crounse
Steven Crounse (@guest_41153)
7 years ago
Reply to  Steven Crounse

I still feel that Mr. Crawford needs to be part of the Team. Even if he does not like the other players. We still pay him to do his job.

Jeanne Wyatt
Jeanne Wyatt (@guest_40989)
7 years ago
Reply to  Bob Weintraub

Bob Weintraub – If there were a “LIKE” button for your comment, I would click it.

Vince Cavallo
Vince Cavallo(@grandvin)
7 years ago

IMO this is the result of what happens where “development” takes over for quality of life. The county has been cutting personnel costs since the recession of 08. Meanwhile, recently prop values have risen year to year which results in increased revenues not even considering last years approx 10% county increase. Yet, we are having to dig into reserves and repurpose funds to meet operating budgets. Something seems amiss and it seems to me it involves the pell mell rush into development activities.

Pat Edwards
Pat Edwards (@guest_40991)
7 years ago

Mr.Weintraub, please do the research! Ms. Jones at OMB would be glad to help you find the information you need to make an informed conclusion. By looking at audited numbers you can easily verify instead of making assumptions or guesses.
Thank you,
Pat Edwards, Chairman BOCC

robert ross
robert ross (@guest_41353)
7 years ago

That the county reportedly has low debt and good credit is commendable. However, I do not see how the diversion of funds from special accounts (the one cent sales tax), together with the abandonment of contingency funds and infrastructure expenditures over time in order to pay for normal operating expenditures can be viewed as prudent or responsible fiscal management. Rein in expenditures and/or raise taxes to balance.

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