Thoughts on Nassau County’s finances “. . .Taxpayers deserve better”

Submitted by Greg Lane
December 3, 2015  5:05 p.m.


I’m deeply concerned that some of our county leaders appear to only have heard what they want to hear from the Burton & Associates audit [Click here to read  ‘A Disturbing View’ Nassau County gazes at fiscal cliff] of the county’s financial condition. Equally concerning, it confounds me how, despite the audit presented to the county commission in July 2015, many of our community news outlets have not covered the real problem at hand. Nassau County citizens and taxpayers deserve better.

In a nutshell, the Great Recession from 2008 to 2013 drove down the value of
property in the county, which resulted in a hit to the county budget of
approximately $13 million. This is significant for a county with a total annual
budget of slightly more than $169 million. But, that’s only the beginning. Because
our county is over-reliant on residential taxes to fund all government services and
the “Save our Homes” amendment to the Florida Constitution requires that homesteaded
residential property taxes can only increase by 3% per year or the Consumer Price
Index (CPI) – whichever is lower – the county has had to essentially play catch up
and dip into reserves and capital improvement funds until values and taxes reach
their prior levels.

F-O-Smaller2-300x300Simply put, we cannot cut our way to financial prosperity and continue to dip into
county reserves to balance budgets. We must position the county for smart, economic growth, private capital investment and high-wage, high-quality job creation that benefits the county as a whole, as well as broaden and diversify our tax base in
order to decrease the county’s dependence on residential property taxes to fund all
government services.

We cannot afford to sit on our laurels as our county faces a financial crisis. All
of us who pay property taxes here and have a long-term stake need to understand
these issues. We ask that you join the discussion by engaging your friends and
neighbors in a transparent dialogue about our county’s fiscal health.

Editor’s Note: Gregory R. Lane is the owner of Gregory R. Lane General Contractors located in Fernandina Beach, Fla., and is a supporter of the local ‘Citizens for a Better Nassau County’ effort. Lane has resided in Nassau County for 28 years.


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Mary Maguire
Mary Maguire (@guest_45897)
8 years ago

Interesting commentary. If some county leaders heard the message from Burton & Associates then it appears they all ignored it. Because the commission passed the FY 2015-2016 budget without a property tax hike, additional user fee, new bond debt or selling assets in a 5-0 vote. Local news outlets reported this. What’s confounding is a vote for the status quo followed by a fiscal cliff warning.

Robert Riegler
Robert Riegler (@guest_45910)
8 years ago

Transparent is the need for Nassau County Government to conduct it’s business within revenue limits collected, ie living within one’s means. As a private small business owner, I have been doing just that for many years. When I drive around this island as well as off island and see “make work” projects it sickens me. As one current individual running for President has said, “Enough is Enough”.

Roger Horton
Roger Horton (@guest_45912)
8 years ago

One can’t blame all the county’s financial woes on property tax decreases. One must look at spending and what tax payer’s money is spent on. Every department in the county is wasteful. Lets start with the Building Department: When Nassau County has a structure built there is no inspection by the building inspectors and no permit is required. Take the new court house for example. Shortly after Nassau County took possession of it there was problems with the windows for which if I remember correctly cost tax payers some $300,000. The general contractor was hired to do the inspections. Do you think he found and problems that was going to cost him money? And the list goes on for every new structure. If you build a deck or dog house they will go to no end to make you get a permit and you know the first inspection will fail.

Lets look next at the fire department. Want to know a sad fact? Unless you live next to an active fire hydrant NCFRD cannot save your structure. In all thr fire department vehicles there is not enough water capacity to put out a fire if they could get there in a reasonable amount of time. The commissioners all except Steve Kelley voted to get rid of the volunteer firemen. The volunteers owned all the tankers and could supply enough water to fight a fire and was in the neighborhoods enabling a faster response with men and equipment. Remember the house in Hilliard that caught fire on Christmas eve several years back when Young was fire chief and Graves was assistant chief? That house burnt because there was only 2 firemen available and Young wouldn’t even let them apply water from outside the structure till more firemen arrived. The family and a Deputy Sheriff was carrying belongings out of the house while 2 firemen watched. House was destroyed. Another sad but true fact: It would be cheaper for the tax payers to get rid of the fire department and pay owners for burnt structures. The firemen themselves are doing the best they can. There is no leadership in the fire department or in the county administration. Fire and rescue vehicles are used for personal use. Every Sunday morning about 9:30 am Station 50 goes to breakfast. They came to work at 8:00 am and they need to eat after they get to work. Its not just Station 50 as they all have similar practices. All this is because 1st District County Commissioner Danny Leeper made a promise to the local firemens union that he would get rid of then Chief Cooper (the last real chief that Nassau has had) and his second promise was to get rid of the volunteers. Having volunteers was taking overtime away from union members. Check the amount of overtime now compared to when we had working volunteers. And the waste goes on.

Road and Bridge Department is another big tax dollar waster. Most of R & B employees work 3 to 6 hours aday. County manager Ted Selby and Public Works Director Scott Herring is well aware of this but will not correct it. R & B is also unionized and the commissioners with the exception of Kelley and Spicer have taken union money. Not saying they are owned by the unions but follow the money and look at the decisions involving entites that gave them money. R & B Department send work crews from the Bailey Road yard to the west side of the county to work. They go on the clock at 7:30 am leave the yard 30 to 60 minutes later, some stop to eat breakfast on the way, get to the job site about 9:00 am or later, take a union required 15 minute break at 10:00 that takes 30 to 60 minutes because t=some has to drive to a store. Lunch at 12:00 that may start at 11:00 and last till as long as 1:00 pm. At 2:00 pm there is another union required break. They leave the work site at around 2:30 to return to the Bailey Road yard to get off work at 4:00 pm if there actually wait till 4:00 to leave. And the beat goes on.

To write all the financial woes of the caused by commissioners and other departments outside the control of commissioners would require volumes but don’t take my word for it send information request to Human Resources Department and ask for information under the Freedom of Information Act.

Roger Horton
For the Citizens of Nassau County

Gerhardt Thamm
Gerhardt Thamm(@thammgbyahoo-com)
8 years ago

Do we, the taxpayers, really deserve better? An ancient political philosophy says, “The people deserve the government they have.” So? We voted for these politicians, they were the best Nassau County had to offer.

Tom Dolan
Tom Dolan (@guest_45925)
8 years ago

Mr Lane. Thank you for sounding the alarm. It would be hopeful to believe that citizens would respond.

On a positive note I have been dealing with Nassau Economic Development ( They are extremely professional and effective. If a business wants to move here they will make the process easy.

On the other hand it is unlikely that government officials will resolve our strategic financial problems. They act within a pattern. Once the tax tap is exhausted they do not know what to do.

A businessman would figure out what assets to sell, where to lease vs buy, how to reduce manpower and be more efficient. Such thinking does not exist in government.

Randy McGee
Randy McGee (@guest_45991)
8 years ago

random chattering with a dose of bs while deflecting issues, Same story, different year. Did we not hear of all the promises by the sitting commissioners during the last coupe elections about how they all knew how to fix the financial problems of the county? Oh, wait, that doesn’t matter…they are politicians making campaign promises. Pet projects, personal interest, future promises and handshake deals. And wtf? The county doesn’t require buildings being built by the county to be permitted and inspected like all the other buildings? And the county buildings is where the tax paying public goes to? Anyway, until the county is bankrupted by mismanagement and corruption, nothing will change. It has been the status quo, but let’s have a meeting on it so it looks like we are doing something…you buying tonight?

Robert Warner
Robert Warner (@guest_45992)
8 years ago

Randy – I don’t agree with your idea that burning the building down to save it is useful. Perhaps hard work, intelligent thought, and responsible compromise is no longer working as a concept – but I hope not. Matches are a one stroke affair. Remember My Lai?

Doug Newberry
Doug Newberry (@guest_46004)
8 years ago

This is almost certainly a pointless discussion as the very nature of our monetary system precludes anything but poverty for the masses… UNLESS we start operating from a position of power, like a bank.

Several years ago I personally went to the county commissioners and explained to them that there are very simple strategies they could use to set this county up to prosper for decades to come… gave them my phone number… ON THE RECORD!

Lower taxes, more and better services and surpluses as far as the eye can see!

Not a single one called me because our leadership is a bunch of clueless old coots who have no idea what is going on around them.

Only in the event that the commission wakes up to the reality of our financial system will we ever actually prosper. Until then, strap yourselves in folks.