By Anthony Richards
Since Brandon Patty was elected as St. Johns County Clerk of the Circuit Court and County Comptroller and appointed in Dec. 2019, he has been thinking about how to better inform the public regarding tax dollars.
The result was the creation of the “Tracking Your Tax Dollars,” which serves as a guide to St. Johns County’s finances.
Patty expanded on the venture and his goals behind it as the guest speaker at the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce Ponte Vedra Beach Division luncheon at Ruth’s Chris Steak House Feb. 16.
“In many ways our office is the backbone of the county, because we’re involved in so many things,” Patty said. “The clerk’s office works as the checks and balances and ensures that trust of a community and its government is maintained.”
The county finance guide is one of the ways he seeks to preserve that trust and rekindle it for others.
It is the first year such a guide has been created and Patty already has plans to have an annual edition come out each fiscal year.
The guide consists of 18 pages of information designed to break down and sum up where the taxes that residents pay are going, which is information that does not always come across clearly to the public.
“We tried to make sense of it all,” Patty said.
Several forms of economic research are part of the guide, including statistics pertaining to local businesses, the housing market, property taxes and the county’s budget trends over the past four years.
Patty explained that not only does the information come in handy for residents, but it can also be used as a tool for businesses when trying to promote the area.
“We want it to be a tool that stakeholders in the community can use and it’s an avenue to use when you speak with your commissioner,” Patty said.
Public safety is the highest expenditure year in and year out by the county government, with roughly $180 million spent toward the category in 2020.
On the other end of the spectrum, property taxes continue to trend higher each year with roughly $200 of revenue brought in during 2020.
According to Patty another role of his office is to make sure that the county’s standards are being met and constantly evaluated to match the changing times.
“It’s important to stay at the forefront of change, which would also help prevent the risks of fraud,” Patty said.
He believes that part of the maintaining of standards should include a greater emphasis on the infrastructure of the county’s government buildings, many of which he considers to be outdated.
According to Patty, the county jail was built in the 1980s; the Sheriff’s Office building was built in the 1960s and the supervisor of elections is housed in an old potato chip factory.
He also stated that they are exploring the options of opening more clerk offices throughout the county to keep pace with the county’s growth and be more convenient for residents.