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HIGH SPRINGS – Commissioners considered and unanimously approved a resolution setting the proposed tentative rate of ad valorem taxes for Fiscal Year 2020-21 at 5.8800 mills, which is a 3.84 percent increase from the current rolled-back rate of 5.6628 mills.

The preliminary millage rate is routinely set higher than the rate the High Springs City Commission hopes to implement by the time the budget is set and the Final Millage Rate is reported to the County. The Truth in Millage (TRIM) notices are sent by the County to residents on Aug. 1.

Commissioners voted to set this year’s Preliminary Millage Rate at 5.8800 mills, which is $5.8800 per $1,000 of assessed property within the City of High Springs. The rolled-back rate, as computed according to Florida Statutes, was set at 5.6628 mills, which is $5.6628 per $1,000 of assessed property within the City.

Although Commissioners approved the tentative millage rate, there was plenty of discussion leading up to the vote. Commissioner Nancy Lavin recommended a millage rate of 5.99 mills, which Finance Director Jennifer Stull explained would only bring in $33,000 additional dollars. Commissioner Scott Jamison said he thought the City should continue at 5.88 mills, the amount set for the past three years, and that the City should live within their budget, just like the citizens have to.

City Commissioners will conduct a public hearing on Thursday, Sept. 10, at 6:30 p.m., at which time they will consider the proposed millage rate to determine a final amount.

Currently, it is unclear whether that meeting will be held virtually or in the High Springs Commission Chambers. The location and details will be posted on the City of High Springs’ website at https://highsprings.us on the day of the hearing and will specify how to connect to the hearing.

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NEWBERRY – Newberry residents will not be seeing an increase in their fire assessment fees in the upcoming year. Newberry commissioners set the preliminary fire assessment rate by resolution during the July 13 City Commission meeting with no increase recommended.

Director of Finance & Administration Dallas Lee explained that special assessments for fire services are authorized by the Florida Constitution and are currently being used by many local governments throughout Florida to fund fire services. Lower insurance rates for property owners are a result of the availability of fire services he said.

Special assessment for fire services can only be used to fund personnel costs, capital improvements, equipment and other costs related to responding to fire/non-medical emergencies; and maintaining readiness to respond to fire/non-medical emergencies through staffing, training, procuring and maintaining facilities and equipment.

“Per Florida State Statutes the Commission must adopted an initial or proposed rate for the Fire Assessment for Truth in Millage (TRIM) notifications, which will be mailed in August,” Lee said.

“This rate set tonight will be the highest rate (cap or ceiling) the commission can levy in the current year without re-noticing all property owners, said Lee.

He continued by saying that no increase in the Fire Assessment for FY21 is being proposed.

Rates for residential property owners will remain at $175 per dwelling unit.

Rates for non-residential property use categories are based on a rate per square foot. The Commercial rate remains at $0.15 per square foot. The Industrial/Warehouse rate will remain at $0.03 per square foot and the Institutional rate will remain at $0.20.

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NEWBERRY – The City Commission conducted a short meeting on Monday, July 27, the primary purpose of which was to set the Fiscal Year 2020/2021 Preliminary Millage Rate.

The preliminary millage rate is routinely set higher than the rate the City Commission hopes to implement by the time the budget is set and the Final Millage Rate is reported to the County. The Truth in Millage (TRIM) notices are sent by the County to residents on Aug. 1. TRIM reflects annual property taxes and fees based on assessed property values including all exemptions.

Commissioners voted to set this year’s Preliminary Millage Rate at 6.4501 mills, which is $6.4501 per $1,000 of assessed property within the City of Newberry. The rolled-back rate, as computed according to Florida Statutes, was set at 5.8930 mills, which is $5.8930 per $1,000 of assessed property within the City.

However, “the budget has been based on 5.9999 mills, the same rate as the current year,” said Director of Finance & Administration Dallas Lee. “Earlier numbers were based on estimated property appraisals. On July 1 the City received actual property appraisals from the County.”

The first public budget hearing to consider the proposed millage rate and tentative budget is set for Monday, Sept. 14, at 7 p.m. The second public budget hearing to adopt the final millage rate and final budget is set for Monday, Sept. 28, also at 7 p.m. Both public hearings are tentatively scheduled to be held at Newberry City Hall.

Depending on the governor’s executive order between now and the hearing dates, hearings may be held virtually or in a public meeting. Currently, his order allows virtual meetings to be extended to the end of September. Citizens are asked to check the City’s website to determine which method these meetings will be held.

Because students are expected to be in their classrooms on Aug. 24, Mayor Jordan Marlowe said he believes the City should also hold their meetings at City Hall rather than continue virtual meetings. No serious discussion took place during the meeting, but Marlowe said he would meet with each Commissioner individually to determine their wishes on this issue.

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HIGH SPRINGS – During the July 23 City Commission meeting, Commissioners considered increases in land development code administrative fees; some of which might be considered significant. However, in discussion some Commissioners expressed concern at the amount of those increases for the average citizen.

Although all commissioners agree it was time to increase those fees, which had been set by resolution in 2009, consideration of the small property owner was also a concern.

High Springs Finance Director Jennifer Stull pointed out that the funds being collected were inadequate to pay for the costs associated with land-related changes.

Following discussion as to the best way to address the needs of the City while also balancing the citizens’ ability to pay the fees for smaller changes, Commissioner Scott Jamison made a motion to approve the new fee schedule with modifications.

Annexations of less than five acres of property would have increased from the present rate of $150 to $500. Jamison’s motion reduced the amount to $250. Annexations greater than five acres but less than 10 acres would have gone from the present $150 to $1,500. That amount is now set at $500.

A Certificate of Appropriateness (Board) would have increased from $100 to $150. It will now remain at $100.

Conditional Use Permit (Administrative) was set to increase from $100 to $500, but is now set at $250.

A homeowner wanting to split their lot would have had to pay $750 under the proposed rate increase, but now the rate is reduced to $500.

And finally, a property owner requesting a variance would have had to pay a fee of $750, an increase of $450. Instead the rate will now be $500.

All together these changes represent a reduction in the proposed land development fees, but an increase over the 2009 fee schedule.

Commissioner Nancy Lavin requested a clause to be added to the resolution to address hardship situations. Stull said there was already language to address hardship situations in another ordinance and it stipulates the criteria by which an applicant could qualify for a reduced rate. The city attorney said he could incorporate that language into this resolution.

Lavin seconded Jamison’s motion with the hardship clause added. Commissioners approved the motion unanimously in roll call vote. Resolution 2020-E took effect immediately upon Commission approval, although the resolution stipulated an earlier date due to the intention to hear the item at the last meeting. A second motion to approve the effective date was also unanimously approved.

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NEWBERRY – Following a quasi-judicial public hearing on second reading of Ordinance 2020-21, which was held during the July 13 Newberry City Commission meeting, a developer received approval to change the setbacks on his subdivision.

Application LDR 20-02 was submitted by M3 Development, LLC, acting as agent for C.L. Brice, Inc., the owner of Lexington Station Mixed-Use Development.

The property is located directly north and west of the Easton-Newberry Sports Complex on two parcels consisting of approximately 196-acres.

This item was first heard on June 22, and approved on first reading. The amendment to the original development order, which required a five-foot-setback at the front of the residence and a 10-foot setback at the side (interior) yard in residential developments, modifies those setbacks for Lexington Station.

This approval will now allow a change to the front setback from five feet to 20 feet. The purpose of the change is to create space for each property owner to have their own driveway for parking. It is hoped that the modification will minimize on street parking within the subdivision. The amendment to the side setback will now be altered from 10 to five-feet.

The change is considered a minor amendment and is designed to modify the subdivision from a neotraditional design, where the front of the home is near the street, to a traditional design similar to other homes within the community.

During the first public hearing, discussion centered on whether the change would prevent cars from parking on the streets, an issue which has been a concern in other subdivisions. However, during the second hearing, there was very little discussion on that issue.

Planning and Economic Development Director Bryan Thomas explained that the existing development order was approved in 2005. That order allows for up to 214 single-family, and up to 226 multifamily units. “The amendment would not change the allowable residential density or change setbacks for accessory buildings,” he said.

In roll call vote, Commissioner Monty Farnsworth cast the only dissenting vote. The ordinance was approved 4-1 on second reading.

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PUTNAM COUNTY – Hawthorne resident Mathew Moore, 59, passed away Tuesday morning following a fatal motorcycle crash in Putnam County.

Moore was traveling on State Road 20 in Interlachen at around 9:30 a.m. when he hit a deer. Moore was not wearing a helmet at the time of the crash and died later at a local hospital.

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ALACHUA COUNTY ‒ The Alachua County Commission will conduct a virtual Special Meeting on Monday, August 3, 2020, at 1:30 p.m. At this meeting, the Commission will discuss the Alachua County CARES Act application process details.

Read the Alachua County CARES Act Funding Plan.

The public may attend virtually through Cox Channel 12, Facebook, and the County's Video on Demand website. For meeting audio-only, call 301-715-8592, and when prompted, use code 670 965 3024. The public may submit comments to the board through email (bocc@alachuacounty.us) or by calling into the public comment message line when prompted to call during the meeting. Public comment will be taken by telephone for all non-ministerial items on which the Commission votes. Once public comment is opened for an item under discussion, please call 929-205-6099 (enter meeting code 273 174 8038).

Callers will be put in a queue and prompted when it is their turn to speak. To avoid feedback, speakers must turn down their meeting sound when addressing the commission. The commission will allow up to a total of 30 minutes for citizen comments on each item opened for public comment. In addition, the Commission will open phone lines for one 30-minute public comment session for the public to discuss items not on the Commission agenda. The public is encouraged to submit any written or photographic documents prior to the meeting to bocc@alachuacounty.us.

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