Deadline extended for utility customers to cash fire service refund checks

File photo: Derek Schroth, an attorney for the plaintiffs, questions a witness on the witness stand during the $80 million City of Ocala Fire Fee lawsuit hearing at the Marion County Judicial Center in Ocala, Fla. on Tuesday, May 10, 2022. About 100 concerned citizens packed courtroom 1 for the final hearing of the lawsuit at the courthouse. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2022.

Home » Community
Posted March 26, 2024 | By Jennifer Hunt Murty

With the deadline fast approaching for Ocala utility customers to receive and cash court-ordered refund checks for illegally assessed fire service fees, attorneys for the city and the customers have agreed to temporarily halt to the uncollected money from automatically reverting to the city.

According to a May 2022 court order, refund checks totaling almost $80 million in illegal taxes collected by Ocala needed to be cashed by April 30, 2024 or the funds would stay with the city. As previously reported by the “Gazette,’’ city records show that as of December, almost 18,000 people had not cashed refund checks totaling more than $7 million.

After the city told the “Gazette” they had no duty to notify the 18,0000 about their uncollected refunds, at the end of December the “Gazette’’ published the names of those persons with uncashed checks who were owed more than $100.

City attorney, William Sexton said that even though the city anticipated having all the checks reissued, it would not turn away claimants who came forward after the April 30 deadline.

Sexton said that city staff had reviewed all returned mail against national address databases to ensure that the city was directing the checks to the correct account holder.

The new judge assigned to this case, Judge Steven Rogers has entered a temporary order approving the parties’ stipulation and those who paid the fire fee tax in their utility bills from Feb. 20, 2010 through 2021 should contact the city should direct their claim to or by phone to 352-629-2489.

Meanwhile, attorney for the Ocala Utility customers represented in the class-action, Derek Schroth of Bowen & Schroth, has indicated that the city has not provided answers to his requests for additional information, which includes proof that the city checked national databases for updated addresses for returned mail as was required by that same May 2022 order.

Schroth has filed a Motion to Compel the city’s compliance with his records requests, which will likely be set for a hearing before Judge Rogers.

The request by the “Gazette” for the revised list of outstanding refunds remains unanswered at the time of publication.

newspaper icon

Support community journalism

The first goal of the Ocala Gazette is to deliver trustworthy local journalism so corruption, misinformation and abuse are not hidden from the public or unchallenged.

We count on community support to continue this important work. Please donate or subscribe: