Q: It is budget time of year in St. Johns County. What are some of your thoughts on budgeting, expenditures, and taxation?
A: I think a lot has to do with quality of life. It’s no surprise to anyone that St. Johns County has a high quality of life, with exceptional schools, law enforcement and recreation. It’s also no surprise that our county is rapidly growing, with an estimated population now of 275,000; some estimates say that could double in the next 10 years. So, if we want to continue our high quality of life, we as a community and as government need to plan and forecast how we will keep up with things like schools, fire and rescue, parks — or we will find ourselves in a position less than where we are today.
Q: What can citizens do?
A: This is the time of year that taxing agencies are preparing their annual budgets, and we use these to establish millage rates. These budgets are all public record. Citizen and taxpayer input and constructive scrutiny is critical at this time. I think citizens should take the time and ask the questions of why we are spending money as we are and what we are doing to plan for growth while maintaining our quality of life. We must consider budgets, expenditures and even other potential revenue streams if necessary.
Q: How can citizens educate themselves?
A: Start by reviewing the draft budgets of the various county departments. Most, including my office’s, are available on their website. Then it’s time to begin the conversation with elected officials — we don’t want money wasted, but we also realize to have what we want, we have to pay for it. At this time, property owners in St. Johns County are bearing the entire burden. Should we consider additional revenue streams to address the burden put on our infrastructure by the more than one million tourists per year that visit historic St. Augustine and our beaches?
Additionally, in August, each taxing authority will hold a public meeting. Citizens should attend those and ask questions. The dates and times of these meetings will be included in the TRIM notices sent out in mid- August.
Q: What is the best way for our readers to contact you?
A: Our office is located at 4030 Lewis Speedway Ste. 203, (904) 827-5500. It is open Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. Also, readers can email me at Eddie@sjcpa.us or call me at (904) 827-5500.