News Bites: Property Tax Considered in Nassau; Orange Park Talks Mass Shootings; The Landing and the City Continue Scuffle

Property Tax Increase Floated in Nassau

Like many communities in the state, Nassau County finds itself a bit in arrears, in terms of financial stability, and county leaders have begun to explore their options to resolve the budget deficit. One suggestion that has met with some controversy is an increase in property taxes, which always tends to be politically problematic. Cindy Jackson of the Fernandina Beach News-Leader reported on June 28 that the Board of County Commissioners is holding a series of public meetings to hear from all sides before it makes any final decision, with the next one slated for next Wednesday, July 11.

“One proposed solution is to increase the millage rate on property in unincorporated areas by 1.9 mils”, writes Jackson, who adds that “One mill is $1 per $1,000 of the taxable value of a property. Using a sample property valued at $100,000, after adjusting for homestead and other exemptions, a millage rate of 5 mills would result in a tax obligation of $500 ($100,000 x 0.005).” If approved, the proposal will take effect in September, and would result in an increase that would likely range between $285 and $1,900, depending on the appraised value of the home. Increases along those lines could generate up $13 million for the county, money that will almost certainly be spent wisely, right? Sure.


Orange Park Discusses Mass Shootings

The past week saw yet another installment in the series of intermittent paroxysms that accompany mass shootings in this country, with the media being especially agitated this time, since the tragedy in Annapolis, Maryland was targeted directly at our industry. Florida, of course, has been on edge ever since 17 kids were murdered downstate in Parkland on Valentine’s Day, and communities around the state have been working on their own response plans, with all the hype and hullaballoo one has come to expect any time this subject is raised in public. Clay Today’s Kile Brewer took readers inside one of these discussions, held at Ridgeview High in Orange Park on June 21.

“This was not a simulation where school administrators sat in a gym and watched via monitors a drill unfold,” writes Brewer. “The June 21 event was simply a conversation between every line of defense the schools have in preventing or stopping a shooter.” These kinds of conversations are not fun, but they are an unavoidable aspect of a bitter new reality that most Americans feel has been forced on them, for reasons that make no sense to them. Representatives of various law-enforcement agencies in the region met with officials from local schools for some hard talk, as all involved tried to think about the unthinkable.

“What we tried to cover today,” said Keith Smith of the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, “was that first initial eight hours of when the incident takes place, during those initial critical hours of locking down the school, getting it back to where the kids are getting out of the school, reuniting them with their parents, and then the coordination with us, the Clay County School Board, with their public information officer Nicole Snyder and just working together from there.” Coordination is key in such situations, with the advance preparation amounting to a form of muscle memory, as folks tend to go into autopilot when bullets start flying. Of course, one hopes that these public servants are never actually required to put any of this information to practical use, but given the way things have been going in recent years, it seems almost delusional to imagine that they won’t someday.


The Landing v. The City, Round 57

The ongoing feud between the City of Jacksonville and Sleiman Enterprises, owners of The Jacksonville Landing, have been a source of voluminous laughs locally for months, if not years. The most recent silliness came in the form of a motion filed last week by Jacksonville Landing Investments, who objected to a notice from the city requiring them to obtain special event permits for festivities held on their grounds. Allison Colburn of the Jacksonville Business Journal reports that JLI views this notice as an aberration in the building’s 30-plus-year history, which is replete with special events.

“Those events include Fourth of July celebrations, Florida-Georgia game, Christmas Tree Lighting and New Year’s Eve festivities,” writes Colburn. “An event that has not been permitted can result in a fine of up to $500 and/or 60 days imprisonment, according to the notice. Permit applications must be submitted at least 90 days prior to when the event will take place.” This is only the latest in a long series of legal battles between the two parties, and a piece of prime real estate at the heart of the city’s public image hangs in the balance, like a child batted about between divorcing parents. In this case, as well, one awaits the law to show all these adults how to actually behave like adults.