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Jax Daily Record Monday, Jun. 1, 201512:00 PM EST

50 years ago: State legislation calls for independent audit of city finances

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by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

A bill providing for an external audit of the City of Jacksonville was filed in the Legislature.

The bill was introduced on the recommendation of City Commissioner Dallas Thomas and City Auditor John Hollister.

The audit would be made by an independent certified public accountant. In the event the city did not, on its own initiative, provide for the audit, the state auditor would perform the external review.

The bill also provided for changing the structure of the Office of Special Auditor for City Council so the law would more closely coincide with the duties as fiscal adviser to council.

Delegation members said they felt strongly that council needed expert financial advice.

• A storm of protest over the new county property assessments hit the County Commission the first day new tax notices began to be received by property owners.

Under an order from Circuit Judge William Durden, all property was reassessed for the 1965 tax roll based on fair market value. Durden ruled many parcels in the county were undervalued on the tax rolls.

Commission Secretary Percy Smith received requests for protest forms on 818 parcels of real property and the courthouse switchboard was jammed by stunned — and mostly irate — taxpayers.

Bob Harris, commission chair, said he stayed on the phone all day and night trying to explain the situation to constituents. He said his fellow commissioners and other public officials were doing the same.

A spokesman for the Tax Assessor’s Office said most of the protests appeared to be coming from people who would be paying ad valorem taxes for the first time.

And it wasn’t just the general public.

Duval County School Board member Martinez Baker said the inequities of the past apparently were continuing, at least in his case.

“I bought an electric shop for $7,500 in 1953 and have put in $3,500 in improvements. That’s $11,000 invested,” he said. “Today they assessed the shop at more than $23,000.”

One of the county’s biggest taxpayers, Don Tredin-nick, who owned the Jax Liquors chain of package stores, said the assessments placed on many of his holdings skyrocketed.

But, he said, the new figures were pretty much in line with what he paid for his parcels of land, an indication of some of the assessing inequities ordered remedied.

“I have one piece of land — 160 acres in Arlington — that I paid $160,000 for. It was on the rolls last year for only $8,100. They have raised it to $162,500,” he said.

Without the reassessment, Tredinnick said, his Thunderbird Motel in Arlington would have been assessed at $500,000. He received a 1965 assessment placing the property’s value at $1.7 million.

“But I’m not going to complain. The money is needed for our schools and many other things,” he said.

T. Jeff Davis, a member of the Duval Area Planning Board, reported a lot of grumbling in the Mandarin-Loretto area and he was one of the grumblers.

He said he paid no taxes in 1964 after deducting the $5,000 homestead exemption although his home was on 25 undeveloped acres. Davis was surprised when he opened his 1965 assessment and discovered the property assessed at $25,000.

In response to the notices, the Greater Loretto Improvement Association adopted a resolution protesting the amended assessing policy, particularly on vacant land that was not producing revenue for the owners.

Davis said he knew a lot of people who would have to sell many acres in order to pay their tax bills.

• A.L. Oliver, visiting teacher for the Duval County School Board, was named director of Project Head Start for Greater Jacksonville Economic Opportunity Inc.

The announcement was made at a meeting of the 35 teachers who would conduct summer preschool training for nearly 1,000 underprivileged children.

Oliver would be paid $1,750 for the 10-week period of the program.

Only children who entered first grade in the fall were eligible for the program and 85 percent of the participants had to come from families with household incomes of less than $3,000 annually.

• Legislation that would increase salaries for elected officials was introduced in the state House and Senate.

If enacted and signed by Gov. Haydon Burns:

• The mayor’s annual salary would increase from $15,000 to $16,500.

• City Council members’ salary would go from $300 to $400 a month and their expense allowance would increase from $75 to $100 per month.

• Annual salary for members of the City Commissioners would jump from $9,900 to $11,500.

• The Clerk of the Criminal Court of Record would get a bump from $12,000 to $13,000 annually.

• Landon High School’s 250 seniors — the last for the school — held their final class meeting and passed along some of the most proud possessions of the 38-year-old school.

Students turned over a couple of their sports trophies to two of their long-standing rivals — Lee and Jackson high schools.

To Lee, the school gave its trophy for winning the 1955 Big 10 Football Championship. It was accepted by H.K. Smith, president of Lee’s Class of 1937.

Landon’s 1957 Big 10 Basketball Championship trophy was accepted by Mayor Lou Ritter, a member of the Jackson Class of 1942.

The final roar for the Landon Lions was scheduled June 12, when 5,000 of the school’s 7,000 alumni were expected to attend a reunion at the Coliseum.

• Aerojet General Shipyards Inc. learned ship construction activities would not have to be moved under a shed when the City Commission granted permission to move the shed over the ships.

Commissioners approved a variance to the city building code to allow construction of a work building on rails that could be moved over the construction ways.

A spokesman for the company said the shed would be 90 feet by 140 feet. It would permit uninterrupted construction of vessels in heavy rain and inclement weather and thus avoid construction delays.

Also approved by the commission was a $750 fund transfer to make up a deficit in the city Health Department budget to purchase rat poison.

• City Commission awarded a $478,400 contract for reconstruction of the stands in back of the north end zone of the Gator Bowl to William E. Arnold Co. The project would add 10,000 seats to the 50,000-seat stadium.

The contract was contingent upon the sale of $700,000 in revenue bonds. An agreement between the city and several local banks and insurance companies was made for delivery of the bonds on June 11.

The project would eliminate the bleacher seating and connect the east and west stands to form a horseshoe-shaped arena.

The bid was well under the estimate of $630,000 made by George Robinson Sr., executive secretary of the City Recreation Board. He said the lower than anticipated bid would allow other improvement to be made in the seating areas.

• Georgia Pasquino, former bookkeeper of River Garden Hebrew Home for the Aged, pleaded guilty to grand larceny of funds from the nonprofit corporation.

Sentencing, as long as five years in state prison, was deferred to July 2 by Criminal Court Judge Hans Tanzler Jr.

Pasquino, 46, was arrested in March on charges of taking various amounts from the weekly receipts of the home from March 1963 to Jan. 12, 1965.

Assistant State Attorney Edwin Booth said the larceny totaled $17,368. He said the embezzlement came to light Jan. 12 when Pasquino resigned and left the home’s employ.

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