Guest Column: Cook lays out financial observations in county


County Commission Candidate, Denver Cook (R-District 4), outlined for Historic City News reporters in St Augustine today what he sees as the financial challenges, and solutions, facing St. Johns County as the 2015 budget process moves forward.

  • The County Commission, with a 4-1 vote July 29th, decided that no changes are needed as we are in an enviable financial position. County millage rates will remain unchanged and the recommended budget is up $7 million.
  • St Johns County is bonded out until 2030, General Fund, Transportation Fund and Fire Fund reserves will be depleted by 2018, and we have an imbalanced taxes base with 87% reliance on residential taxes.
  • In 2014 county reports 5% growth in tax revenues with over half from new homes in Nocatee.
  • We are over-reliant on residential growth to solve long term fiscal failure as this reliance resulted in the 2007 collapse. It is past time to adjust for the new financial normal in government as we have in our households.
  • In our third year with $14 million transportation shortfalls there are some notable changes.
  • Since 2013, transportation fund salaries increased $883,000, County Commission, Administration, Personnel, and MIS salaries increased $708,000.
  • Historically the gap between taxes revenue and spending tells a more dramatic story.
  • Operation and salary cost averaged $6 million above tax revenue between 2009 and 2011. This increased to $20.9M in 2012, to $26.9M in 2013 and to $50.3M in 2014.
  • With the proposed flat budget for 2015 we can expect more of the same.
  • It is time that we changed direction for St Johns County. My plans include out-source janitorial, maintenance and infrastructure through competitive bidding with 5% advantage to local small business with 50% residential employees.
  • We will create Economic Development Zones, such as I-95 and SR207 and provide waivers from impact fees, permit fees, design limitations and tax exemption for up to three years to promote commercial, light industrial and business growth.
  • This commission believes we can continue doing what we are doing and things will change. We face many difficult choices ahead and only through transparent and open communication can we reprioritize spending just as we have at home. My cross-sector experience in military intelligence, construction, and law enforcement give me to tools to address these critical issues and to protect our future.
  • We are successful in our faith, family and business through dedication, hard work and sacrifice. It is time these principles were applied to our county governance. I have a plan to grow business and balance spending.

This message is approved by and paid for by Denver Cook, Republican, for St Johns County Commission, District 4. To learn more visit and don’t forget to vote. Early voting August 15-23 with Primary vote August 26.

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