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Fall 2015

A Message from the Clerk
 
Clerk: “County is Healthy.”  Recommends Plan for Fiscal Sustainability

On May 20th, 2015, I was asked to appear before the Board of County Commissioners to discuss the current fiscal health of the County and how to achieve fiscal sustainability into the future.  I was proud to report Nassau County is fiscally healthy and doing very well; confirming what our independent auditor Ron Whitesides, from Purvis Gray & Company has previously mentioned, “…the county continues to be in a position of what we would call healthy…”  Our healthy rating is based on so many good things happening in the county, including the fact that revenues are increasing.  Revenues have increased so well, that if you compare total recurring revenues projected for the upcoming budget year, we are less than $500k away from our all-time high banner year of 2008.  I believe by making just a few minor changes, we could sustain our County’s fiscal health well into the future.  These changes would also eliminate the false perception of how we are facing another multi-million dollar “operational budget” deficit and will need to raise taxes or this County will have to shut down.  We have adequate revenues to cover our operational expenditures without cutting services.

I agree, the County needs a strategy to achieve fiscal sustainability, but the trick is creating a plan that doesn’t place an undue burden on the citizenry; and no matter what strategy you choose, it will only be successful if it provides absolute transparency and accountability to the taxpayers.  After careful consideration, I came up with a definition for fiscal sustainability; “The aggregate mechanisms of public policy and practice necessary to assure adequate funding is available and dedicated to the goals and necessities of the community without placing an undue burden on the citizenry, present and future”.  With this definition in hand, I developed a strategy called the “Four Cornerstones of Fiscal Sustainability”. 

This strategy consists of four key principles that establish an order of operations to the overall budget process: (1) follow a “revenue driven” budgeting philosophy, (using existing taxation rates as the beginning reference point and where expenditures are limited to all recurring revenues, including the 1¢ Surtax); (2) achieve a structurally balanced “operational” budget, (where all recurring revenues must be greater than or equal to operational expenditures); (3) maintain adequate reserves (keeping safety reserves at required levels and replenishing spending reserves as deemed appropriate); and finally, (4) debt control (debt only constrains the operational budget further, now and into the future).    

Simply put, this strategy forces the County to “live within our means,” something we are all forced to do at home.  It places all available revenues on the table to balance the “operational” budget (expenditures that you expect to fund every year in order to maintain current levels of service, i.e. putting fireman in the trucks, policeman on the street, and turning on the lights to our county buildings) prior to considering any “capital” budgets (i.e. buildings, major equipment, etc.).  You can move forward in the budget process only after ensuring your operational budget is covered.  Once covered, you begin listing out in detail all the major capital and maintenance needs of the county; do we fund pavement management, fleet replacement, and/or start saving towards a new major capital project?  Having to provide this level of transparency would shine a light on what is truly driving the need to raise taxes; requiring the Board to defend and stand behind the importance of each additional item.  It creates an open and honest discussion with the public, allowing the taxpayers to develop their own opinions. 

The only way this strategy can be successful is by revising three of the Board’s Financial Policies.  We need to revise Policy 1.10 (to include all recurring revenue sources, i.e. 1¢ surtax, projected at $8.3M), strike Policy 5.4(a) (removing a limitation placed on available revenue), and revise Policy 2.1 (to fund reserve for contingencies from fund balance, freeing up approximately $2.1M of sorely needed tax revenue).  The revisions may seem trivial to some, but their impact is so significant.  The recommended changes bring an additional 9 to 10 million dollars to the forefront of budget discussions, showing exactly where it is being used.  Current policies allow this money to be kept off the table until determining what is needed to cover the self-imposed budget gap. 
    
By making minor policy changes and following the Four Cornerstones of Fiscal Sustainability, the whole dynamic of budget discussions would be transformed; from stressing about a deficit, to deciding what to fund with the surplus over the “operational” budget.  The Four Cornerstones are a simple, common sense approach that make the budget process easier to understand while providing transparency to the taxpayers; showing exactly where their money is going.  This strategy provides the County with the proper tools to remain fiscally sustainable into the future.


Scams Target Potential Jurors
 

Yulee, FL – August 31, 2015

Please be aware that a jury scam has resurfaced. Victims are falsely being told they missed jury duty and must pay a fine or face arrest. Callers posing as court employees are aggressively demanding payment of a $400 fine, even though victims never received a jury summons. The caller threatens the potential victim by saying they failed to show up for jury duty, and they’ll be arrested and possibly even spend several days in jail if they don’t pay money through a pre-paid debit card or credit card. It is extremely important to remember that Clerk’s office employees will not call you to request money or your personal information. If you receive such a call, hang up immediately. Please do not give out any personal information. You can contact this office for more information at (904) 548-4607. Also, you may contact the Nassau County Sheriff's Office at (904) 225-5174 to report the incident.

 
 
Attorney Registration Deadline Approaching


 
Pursuant to the Florida Supreme Court Administrative Order 14-19 & 15-18, new authentication requirements are mandatory for registered users. Attorneys wanting remote viewing capabilities will need to complete and sign the attached Registration Agreement to View Records Online and return it to the Clerk’s office via email at subscribers@nassauclerk.com. Also, attorneys who are already registered with the Clerk’s office will need to complete, sign, and return the Registration Agreement to View Records Online on or before September 15, 2015 to help ensure no disruption in service. If you have any questions about the aforementioned process or forms, please email them to subscribers@nassauclerk.com.
 
John A. Crawford
Clerk of the Circuit Court
  

Online Electronic Records Access FAQs

 
What prompted this decision to develop a new system for access to court records?
 On March 19, 2014 the Supreme Court lifted a moratorium that had been in place since 2004 regarding online access to electronic court documents. The Florida Supreme Court Order AOSC 14-19 contains a number of technical requirements and a complex security matrix designed to balance reasonable access for the public and an individual's right to privacy.

 Is it only Nassau County that is implementing Online Electronic Records Access or are other counties doing this as well?
 As per the Florida Supreme Court’s Administrative Order (AOSC14-19) and as part of the process of implementing the standards and security matrix, all Florida counties are working on a statewide pilot program that will monitor and coordinate all clerk initiatives relating to online access to electronic court records. Under the pilot program, each clerk or circuit court will apply to the Florida Courts Technology Commission's (FCTC) Access Governance Board for approval of its electronic records access system.

 Who will be affected by these changes to online access?
All users, including court staff, agency partners, attorneys, media and the general public. The Standards for Access to Electronic Court Records document states: Access to electronic court records is determined by the user’s role and applicable statutes, rules and administrative policy. Access may be restricted to certain user groups based on case type, document type or information contained within records. All individuals and entities authorized under these standards to have greater access than the general public must establish policies to protect confidential records and information in accordance with applicable rule and statutory requirements. Remote electronic access may be more restrictive than clerk in-house electronic access.
To read the complete Standard for Access to Electronic Court Records document, visit www.flcourts.org.

Who assigns or grants user level access to the system?
User access is defined at a base level by the security matrix provided in AOSC14-19. In Nassau County, the general public will not be required to register for login credentials in order to access available documents remotely. Agencies requiring unique access (e.g. law enforcement or State Attorney’s Office, case parties, etc.) will be required to register for login credentials though the Clerk’s Office.

What steps are necessary to register for access to court records in this new system?
 In Nassau County, the general public will not be required to register for login credentials in order to access available documents remotely. For attorneys and case parties, a pending account will be created online via a form. Once the user’s identity has been verified, the account will be activated so the user can login and gain additional access to appropriate documents. For agency employees (e.g. law enforcement or State Attorney’s Office, etc.), the agency gatekeeper will create the user’s account through the Clerk’s Office with appropriate rights for their agency.

What are the methods for accessing electronic court records?
Customers and stakeholders will have many ways to access court records in Nassau County. First, access to court records will be available remotely via the new electronic access system. Second, customers who do not have the use of a computer or the internet can access court records via our file view stations at the courthouse.

What is the timing for making this access available to attorneys?
The provisional timeline for the testing of the new electronic access system follows the approval of our application with the FCTC Access Governance Board. Once approved, a testing period of up to 120 days begins. The Clerk’s Office anticipates moving into the pilot phase of the project in October, 2015.

Will there be an additional cost associated with online access to court records using this system?
 No. There are no fees to access and view the court records remotely.

How will other interested parties be able to access records online?
 All users will gain access through a public facing website. Credentials will be created for certain user groups (e.g. law enforcement, State Attorney’s Office, case parties, etc.), but members of the general public will be able to remotely access public court documents without login credentials.

 What will happen to my current access to records?
The Nassau County Clerk’s existing COCOA public access website will eventually be replaced by the new electronic access system once the new system has been approved, tested and implemented. Access to court records will also be available at the courthouse upon request or in one of our file view stations.
 
Foreclosure Case Filings Down Again
in 2014 in Nassau County, FL


New foreclosure cases filed in Nassau County during 2014 declined from the previous year, continuing a multi-year trend. There were 196 new foreclosure cases filed in 2014, a 24 percent decrease from 304 new cases filed in 2013.

The statistics are compiled from raw totals of cases filed each month in the Nassau County Circuit Court. The data does not break down the number of residential or commercial foreclosure filings separately.

Nassau County Clerk of Courts
Sponsors School Supplies Drive


The Nassau County Clerk and Comptroller, John A. Crawford and his staff recently hosted their second annual School Supply Drive to support local school classrooms. Collection bins were conveniently located in each department of the Clerk’s Office for the employees to place their donations. Their generosity will help provide crayons, pencils, notebooks, and other classroom items to children in our community's schools. Items were donated to Communities in Schools, a nonprofit organization that empowers kids to stay in school and succeed in life. "This drive allows many less fortunate children to have the basic tools necessary to learn successfully. I am really proud that the Clerk’s office staff feels so strongly about supporting their community and through these children are making an investment in America’s future," said John A. Crawford.  


 
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Copyright © 2015, Nassau County Clerk of Courts, All rights reserved.
Our mailing address is:
Nassau County Clerk of Courts
76347 Veteran's Way, Suite 456
Yulee, FL  32097


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