Another Positive Fiscal Year for Nassau County
The audit is done and the news is good! I am proud to report, after one thousand four hundred hours of work and review by our independent auditor, Nassau County was issued an unmodified report for fiscal year ending 2016. Independent auditor Ron Whitesides, from Purvis Gray & Company says, “That’s the highest level of assurance an audit firm can render.” Further mentioning, “Your financial statements are fairly presented,” and “…you had a positive fiscal year.”
During the Monday, March 27th Board of County Commissioner’s meeting, Mr. Whitesides was in attendance to provide a summary of the annual audit results. Total revenues reflected a decrease of about $2.5 million, from $102 million in 2015 to $99 million in 2016, and an increase in expenses of about $3 million, from $97 million in 2015 to $100 million in 2106. Mr. Whitesides stated, while this, “…financially doesn’t sound like a positive trend… I’ll make the case why it’s a little bit misleading.” He explained that the decrease in revenues was primarily in grants, which are non-recurring revenue sources that can fluctuate each year, but the recurring revenues, those you would expect to see year over year, have all increased. He mentioned, “…while total revenues did decrease because of that $7.5 million decrease in grant revenues… your recurring revenues have in fact increased by about $4 million over the prior year, which again are indicators of a stronger local economy and indicators of future revenue growth.”
The discussion then moved on to address the increase in expenses. He cautioned the Board why this too needed further clarification; reminding them of the new accounting standard that went into effect last year. When the Florida Retirement System (FRS), has a year where return on investment doesn’t meet their earnings target (which has occurred this year), the County must account for their portion of this difference on the books. Keeping in mind that this process causes an expense (on the books), not an expenditure of cash out. He further explained that recurring type expenses only increased by about $2 million, with the remaining increase due to this pension accounting calculation.
Mr. Whitesides continued his presentation by discussing the Board’s financial statements. He stated, “These are the numbers that you base your budgets on.” Further stating these are, “…designed to measure overall financial health.” On yet another positive note, he reported that the county finished the year with an excess of $4 million dollars.
In addition to the annual financial audit, my office continues to monitor other indicators that help assess the county’s fiscal health: taxable property values increased 6.1% over the previous year; recurring revenues (ad valorem property taxes, one-cent surtax, and other governmental revenues combined) were budgeted at the highest ever in Nassau County’s history (totaling $74.5 million, an increase of 8.6% from 2016); tourism continued to grow at record breaking numbers, bringing in $5.3 million in Tourist Development Tax for fiscal year ending 2016 (up another 6.9% from 2015); current unemployment rate for February is at 4.5%; and closed home sales for 2016 were up 12.4% with foreclosures down by 20%. The county also has a fully funded five-year Capital Improvement Plan; maintains a level of safety reserves consistent with the standards recommended by the Government Finance Officers Association (totaling just over $13 million) and possibly the best news of all, the county continues to pay down and add no new debt, thus creating the opportunity to be debt free in just under 15 years!
As affirmed by independent auditor, Mr. Ron Whitesides, the County had “…a positive financial result and positive indicators with recurring revenue sources trending upward.” So, rest assured, Nassau County’s fiscal health continues to be strong and trending positively. The hope is, with the proper planning and managing of the resources we have, the County can continue to avoid placing undue burdens on the taxpayers. Congratulations on another clean audit!