Thousands of utility customers can soon expect a second round of fire fee refund checks

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Posted September 7, 2023 | By Jennifer Hunt Murty

The City of Ocala will be mailing a second batch of refund checks to approximately 89,000 past Ocala Electric Utility customers pursuant to a May 16, 2022 court order by Marion County Circuit Judge Robert W. Hodges.

At a Sept. 5 Ocala City Council meeting, city staff said they anticipated this second round of checks would go out to claimants within two weeks.

The case stems from a long-running class-action suit filed in 2014 over fees that averaged about $15 a month that more than 89,000 Ocala residents and businesses paid for fire services as an add-on to their utility bills. The city’s attorney claimed the city council  implemented the fee in 2006 to spread the cost of fire services across a broad group of citizens who did not pay for the services because they didn’t own real estate or were tax-exempt.

An appellate court found the fees constituted an illegal tax. Last October, Hodges ordered the city to establish a common fund to refund the fees.

Due to the 5th District Court of Appeal’s ruling, the refunds equal the amount of money received in fire fees by the city from residents and businesses via city utility bills from 2010 until the beginning of 2021, when the city stopped charging it.

In the May 16 order, which can be read in its entirety here, Hodges determined all utility customers due a refund should receive up to 91% of the money they paid. The refund would come within 60 days by check mailed to the same address they received their notice of final hearing.

For those who received notice of the May 10 final hearing by mail, there were no additional claims processes to navigate. Those customers should have received a check by mail.

Those former customers who have moved or relatives of those former customers who are deceased were told to file a claim form during a period that ran from July 1, 2022 through July 1, 2023.

According to the order, after the one-year claim period passed, any unclaimed funds would be subject to a “second distribution to those class members who have cashed their refund checks as part of the first distribution.”

This second distribution translates to class members getting refunded more than the initial 91% anticipated by the court’s order.

The city hired the Notice Company to navigate that first claim cycle. According to City Attorney William Sexton, the Notice Company will conclude the first claim process, and the city will handle issuing the second round of claims through its service department.

Claimants who need help processing their claims should reach out to the city’s customer service department: or by phone to: (352) 629-CITY (2489).

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