Community Briefs 8/18/16

Clay Today
Posted 8/17/16

KEYSTONE HEIGHTS – Clay Electric Cooperative, a not-for-profit and member-owned electric utility serving 170,000 accounts in 14 North Florida counties, will begin its Operation Round Up program in October.

Operation Round Up is a program …

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Community Briefs 8/18/16


Operation Round Up to help communities served by Clay Electric

KEYSTONE HEIGHTS – Clay Electric Cooperative, a not-for-profit and member-owned electric utility serving 170,000 accounts in 14 North Florida counties, will begin its Operation Round Up program in October.

Operation Round Up is a program designed to generate and collect charitable donations that will benefit organizations in the communities served by Clay Electric. The program “rounds up” members’ bills to the nearest dollar, and that tax-deductible amount is donated to local charities in the co-op’s service area. The money, for example, may be used to refurbish equipment for a volunteer fire department, replace lights at a little league ball field, or help stock a food bank operated by a local charity.

The money collected in Operation Round Up will be deposited in a bank account to be used at the discretion of the Clay Electric Foundation, which is made up of nine volunteer members from within the cooperative’s service area. The Foundation board will accept applications for donations and determine how funds are allocated.

Clay Electric sees its Operation Round Up program as part of its efforts to improve the lives of its members by promoting cooperative values and principles. As a cooperative, Clay Electric is bound by seven cooperative principles. The seventh cooperative principle is “Concern for Community.”

“Clay Electric has a long history of community involvement and support of charitable and community organizations,” said Derick Thomas, director of the co-op’s Member & Public Relations Department. “The co-op has supported children’s programs and shelters for battered women to food banks and scouting.”

In order to ensure strong support of Operation Round Up, Clay Electric decided to include all of its members in the program and to offer those who don’t want to participate the option of “opting out.” Members have been provided several easy ways to opt out of the program, and these options have been promoted extensively on the co-op’s website and in its member publications and bill statement inserts.

Over 250 electric cooperatives across the nation have Operation Round Up programs and the most successful ones have the “opt out” option.

“We believe our members would want their Foundation to have as much positive impact in the community as possible,” Thomas said. “Based on the experience of other cooperatives that have Operation Round Up programs, participation in the program is much higher (75 to 90 percent) when members are automatically enrolled and given an opportunity to opt out.”

The cooperative has educating members since November about the program and why it’s being implemented. Promotion of how members can opt out of the program if they choose to do so has been part of that communication effort.

Members of the cooperative can visit the website at to read more about Operation Round Up. If a member wants to opt out of the program, they can visit or call 1-888-595-2655. They should have their account number and the last four digits of their social security number handy.

Statewide organization honors Clay County Agricultural Fair

ORLANDO – The Florida Festivals & Events Association recently awarded the Clay County Agricultural Fair with four SUNsational Awards during its 22nd annual convention and tradeshow. The program recognizes members’ innovation, individuality and creative collaboration.

The Clay County Agricultural Fair won first place in the category of promotional item for its sponsorship boxes, third place for its event guide – which was produced by Clay Today – and third place in the outdoor advertisement category for Fifi, the Fiat that was decorated like a milk cow complete with stunning eyelashes. Fifi Fiat sponsored by Coastal Spine and Pain Center also garnered the organization’s 2016 Most Innovative Project award.

Nominations were judged by a blue ribbon panel representing media outlets, printing companies, website designers, photographers, promotional marketing professionals and social media experts.

“The SUNsational Awards have recognized and celebrated the talents of our members for more than two decades,” said Suzanne Neve, executive director of FFEA. “We’re proud of our members and their events – and excited to recognize them in this way each year.”

Property owners to receive 2016 truth in millage notices

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Clay County property owners will soon be receiving their 2016 Truth in Millage, of TRIM, Notices.

Clay County Property Appraiser Roger A. Suggs said the notices will go out in the mail on Aug. 18. Florida law requires the TRIM notice to be prepared and mailed each year by the Property Appraiser on behalf of the taxing authorities.

Although the TRIM notice is not a tax bill, it is intended to notify property owners of possible changes that may appear on the November tax bill. Therefore, property owners are encouraged to review the information carefully.

When reviewing the information on the notice that relates to the actual tax calculations, the most important figures are displayed in columns 2 & 3 (“Your Final Tax Rate and Taxes Last Year”) and columns 7 & 8 (“Your Tax Rate and Taxes This Year if Proposed Budget Change is Made”). A comparison of these columns will provide a good idea of the change in taxes property owners may realize on the actual tax bill.

The back of the TRIM notice displays public hearing dates and explanations of the various columns to assist property owners in understanding the notice. Additional information, including a TRIM Guide, property record cards, taxpayer’s bill of rights, and answers to frequently asked questions are available on the Property Appraiser’s website at

Ad valorem property taxes are calculated as follows: Taxable Value x Millage (tax) Rate = Property Taxes. The taxable value is estimated by the Property Appraiser and the millage rates are determined by the taxing authorities.

By law, each taxing authority such as the Board of County Commissioners, School Board, St. Johns River Water Management District, municipalities, and special voter-approved districts, must establish maximum millage rates necessary to fund their proposed budgets. The millage rates can be reduced prior to the mailing of the tax bills. Property owners who are concerned or have questions regarding proposed budgets, millage rates or resulting taxation levels, should contact the taxing authorities or attend the budget hearings listed on the notice.

The Property Appraiser administers exemptions and estimates the value of all property as of January 1 each year. The notice displays three values: market value, assessed value, and taxable value. The market value is the most probable sale price (on January 1, 2016), and may increase or decrease as the market dictates. Due to the upward direction of the real estate market in 2015, the majority of properties in Clay County experienced an increase in market value. The assessed value is the market value less any benefit for the Save-Our-Homes cap, or other assessment limitation. Although market values increased, the assessed values of properties with an existing homestead exemption will be capped at 0.7 percent and non-homestead residential and commercial properties will be capped at 10 percent - with the exception of properties with new construction, additions and/or renovations. It is important to remember that while the assessed value of property may be capped, taxes are not. The taxable value is the assessed value minus any exemptions.

Property owners who have questions regarding an exemption status or a property’s value are encouraged to contact the Property Appraiser’s office for an informal review. This informal review can be handled in person, by telephone, by email, or by mail.

A property owner also has the option to file a formal appeal via petition with the Value Adjustment Board by the deadline listed on the bottom of the TRIM notice (September 12, 2016).

New alert system accepting enrollees

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Clay County and city residents can now go online and sign up for the county’s new emergency alert system.

The new ALERT Clay County has fully replaced the old CodeRED alert system, which is no longer available.

The new system provides a significant savings to the county as it is paid for by the State of Florida, rather than by the Board of County Commissioners. During the Aug. 9 BBC meeting, officials completed the transition to the new system by approving a memorandum of agreement which formally adopted ALERT Clay County as the county’s official emergency notification system, as part of a state-wide mass notification initiative.

ALERT Clay County provides all Clay County residents, municipal residents and Clay County business owners with the ability to receive emergency notifications regarding emergencies and/or threatening severe weather on their home phone, business phone, cell phones and email addresses. Residents can register their address and contact information into the ALERT Clay County portal, at For more information, call Clay County Emergency Management at (904) 284-7703.

Hunter safety internet-completion courses offered in September

MIDDLEBURG – The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is offering free hunter safety internet-completion courses in nine counties, including Clay County, in September.

Students who have taken the online course and want to complete the classroom portion must bring the online-completion report to class.

All firearms, ammunition and materials are provided free of charge. Students should bring a pen or pencil and paper and an adult must accompany children younger than 16 at all times.

Anyone born on or after June 1, 1975, must pass an approved hunter safety course and have a hunting license to hunt alone (unsupervised). The FWC course satisfies hunter-safety training requirements for all other states and Canadian provinces.

Clay County residents can take the class Sept. 8 from 6 to 9 p.m. in Middleburg and Sept. 10 from 8 a.m. until complete in Graham. The class is also being offered Sept. 15 from 6 to 9 p.m. in Keystone Heights and Sept. 17 from 8 a.m. until complete in Graham.

Safe Animal Shelter seeking ‘adoption ambassadors’

DOCTORS INLET – The Safe Animal Shelter is launching a new program that takes pet fostering a step further.

The new Adoption Ambassadors program enlists volunteers who help their chosen dog find a new home by fostering, taking her out into the community and promoting her on social media and through networking.

The majority of animals at the shelter have been surrendered by families who can no longer care for them. Since the animals know what it’s like to live in a nurturing home, some dogs and cats find it hard to adapt to animal shelter life and often become depressed.

In some cases, pets that have been surrendered also need extra help from caring volunteers to make them more adoptable. Adoption Ambassadors will provide much needed support for homeless pets that need training, medical care, or socialization before finding their adopting family with their new loving companion.

As a further reward, the animals will know that as a result of the Ambassadors’ efforts, the pet will not have to spend another day at the shelter.

Ambassador foster dogs go home with a supply kit of food, bowls, toys, bedding and a crate. They also get an “Adopt Me” harness and a leash.

The Ambassador foster dog should be walked, taken to dog parks, dog-friendly restaurants and cafes, dog beaches, adoption events – or any other place where people can meet the dog. Ambassador foster families will be involved in the adoption process as well.

Becoming a foster parent can be a wonderfully fulfilling experience. Ambassadors will be rewarded by knowing they have contributed to saving the life of an animal that otherwise may not have had a chance.

To become an Adoption Ambassador, contact Sherry Mansfield at The shelter will be announcing its first orientation session in the coming weeks.


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