The Florida Supreme Court on Monday refused to take up an appeal by the city of Ocala in a class-action lawsuit about whether a fire-service fee is an unconstitutional tax. The court, as is common, did not explain its reasons for declining to hear the case.
Attorneys for the city went to the Supreme Court in September after the 5th District Court of Appeal said the fee was invalid and that the city should refund money to people who paid the money. The appeals court ruled, in part, that valid user fees must be paid by choice, while not paying the Ocala fire service fee could lead to people having utility services cut off.
“We conclude that appellants (plaintiffs) had no choice but to pay the fire service fee that the city tacked onto their utility bills,” the appeals court ruled. “The only options to avoid payment were to forgo the city’s water, sewer and electric services — all unrelated to fire service — or to move outside of the city. Neither presents a real choice.”