The standard of living in Nassau County is high, but with increased property values and spending comes increased revenue for the county government, which is looking at reducing its millage rate by 3% for the next fiscal year while pulling in more than 11% more cash.
“This is a huge win-win for Nassau County and the taxpayers,” Nassau County Commission Chairman Jeff Gray said after Commissioners’ unanimous votes on the budget and tentative millage rate.
It was a long day for Commissioners, who met at 3 p.m. for the first of two workshops — the first being on the area east of Interstate 95 generally known as Wildlight, and the second being on the budget — before their hours-long regular meeting kicked off at 6 p.m.
“Last year was a significant year for the Board — from 2007 … our millage rate has been increasing or flat since that point in time,” Assistant County Manager Marshall Eyerman said at the budget workshop. “So, the determination of the board last year to reduce the millage rate approximately 1.4% …” essentially led to a net-zero increase on property taxes for homesteaded properties.
Commissioners decided during a planning session before the budget period that county staff should present a budget annually based not on the flat rate, but to come with a reduced millage rate. Thanks to the policy change, this will be the budget process in coming years unless the Board changes it.
“I just want to thank my colleagues — we went probably 12 or 13 years without a millage rate increase, and this is the second year in a row we’ve had one, so thank you so much,” Commissioner Aaron Bell said at the later meeting. “This is fantastic.”
The rollback rate would’ve been more costly, Gray said. It would’ve led the county to defer debt costs, which would cost taxpayers more in the long run. It would’ve also led to a $6.8 million shortfall compared to the budget presented.
Property taxes, as expected, are the major revenue source for the county’s general fund.
“You’ll see a growing trend here, and essentially this all reflects the 3% millage reduction,” Eyerman said. “This has a net increase of 11.3% tax dollars to the general fund. Our second-largest revenue source is the local option sales tax.”
In tourist-driven places like Nassau County, part of the calculus as to whether it’s worth it to add more visitors is to look at how much money those visitors are leaving with the local economy. The latest numbers suggest 36% of Nassau’s local option sales tax revenues are tourist-derived.
It’s not all sunny skies ahead, though.
“Our population growth over the last two years has exceeded 4% year over year,” Eyerman said.
“As you mentioned, in 2050, you’re looking at 173,700 (population). We are seeing, typically where we trend, toward those high (estimates), and really projected to break 100,000 (population) by 2025, and I think we’re probably going to hit that before that date. The big thing that we want to know is really, with every new individual that comes in the county, we have new demands that follow.”
Those demands take money, time, resources and people to satisfy. There are also the current inflationary pressures with which to deal.
“Inflation has been a big topic,” Eyerman said. “Inflation obviously diminishes the buying power of the individual, it diminishes the buying power of the county as a whole, when we’re looking to purchase what we need in our normal operations.”
The consumer price index trend as of June was an increase of more than 9%, he noted.
Public hearings on the millage rate are scheduled for County Commission chambers at 6 p.m. on Sept. 12 and 26.