Residents question utility services tax

Published: Thursday, January 15, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 14, 2004 at 11:42 p.m.

A 48-year-old ordinance has Starke residents upset.

The ordinance placed a 10 percent tax on all sales of bottled gas. Its original purpose was to pay for fire trucks and street paving.

In 1960, it was amended to include the tax on all utility services. The amendment also did away with a specific provision on how the money is to be spent.

Starke residents present at the Jan. 6 council meeting questioned commissioners about the ordinance. "Where has this money gone for the past 40-plus years?" asked Guy Roberts.

While City Clerk Linda Johns had no specifics with her, she assured residents it was being used properly. "The money collected goes into the utility fund. Any extra is then put back into the general fund." she explained. She estimated that more than $60,000 went into the general fund last year from this fee alone.

"This is one reason property tax is only 4 mills," she explained.

Questions also came up about the collection of the tax. It appears some businesses in town were unaware of the tax. "When I called other places in town, they said they didn't even know about it," stated John Steffen, owner of the Starke KOA campground.

City Attorney Terence Brown said enforcement of the ordinance would be difficult. "When it was amended in

1960, they gave it no teeth. We would need to tighten up the enforcement section of the ordinance."

As written, the ordinance has little to no penalty for those who do not collect the tax. "If you're going to enforce it, you need to do it across the board", Steffen said.

The discussion ended with council members directing City Manager Lee Vincent to do a study to see which

businesses were and were not collecting the fee. They asked Brown to look into amending the enforcement

section of the ordinance. The issue will be brought back up at a future commission meeting.

Entertainers, crafters sought

Crafters and entertainers are being sought for the sixth annual Bradford County Strawberry Festival scheduled for March 20-21 on Call Street in Starke.

Applications are available by calling (904) 964-4420 or at Norma's Florist on Call Street in Starke.

Applications for pageant available

Want to be the next Strawberry Queen or Princess? Applications are now being taken for the Miss Bradford-Union Strawberry pageant, which will be held at 7 p.m. March 6 in the Bradford High School Auditorium.

Applications are available at Bradford County High School or by calling (904) 964-4420. All contestants must live in Union or Bradford County.

Breast-cancer awareness luncheon

Altrusa International of Starke and Shands at Starke will host a breast cancer awareness luncheon on Jan. 22 in the Starke First Baptist Church fellowship hall.

Tickets are $5 each and can be purchased by calling (904) 782-3690. For more information contact Altrusa at (904) 964-6530.

James Redmond can be reached at (904) 364-6170 or

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