At least for the coming year, four parade events in St Augustine that would have been subjected to $15,915.50 in new fees, under an unpopular ordinance that went into effect June 1st, have each received waivers allowing them to hold their traditional celebrations without the fee.
Great news for those like heritage native, Phil Genovar; who, with his all-volunteer committee, has been responsible for producing the St Augustine Easter Festival and parade for the past 54 years.
“Although everybody thinks of the horse-drawn carriages in the Easter Parade, the Easter Festival has something going on for the entire Easter week,” Genovar said. “We’ve entertained St Augustine families for generations, and the work continues for more than a week each year.”
In addition to the Easter parade, also excused for this year are British Night Watch $858.00, Christmas Parade $5,746.00, and St Patrick’s Day Parade $2,974.50.
Genovar pointed out that the city benefits in publicity gained — not only from the Easter Parade and Easter Week activities each spring, but also from the appearances throughout the year by members of the ceremonial Royal Family and their entourage; also managed by the Festival committee.
But, tonight, the St Augustine Easter Festival and parade avoided what would have been a tax of over $6,000. A tax, Genovar said, that would mean the end for the decades-old annual Easter event, had it been enforced.
The commissioners say that they approved the ordinance that taxes “Right-of-Way” event operators in order to recover costs the city says are incurred for the use of public streets or other city resources. Complainants have come forward to say the estimates are excessive and prohibitive; as previously reported by Historic City News.
Paul Williamson, the Director of Public Affairs, defended the process saying that the proposed invoices were shared with the city’s department heads — to ensure that the actual costs wouldn’t exceed the estimates provided to the event organizers. He told the
City Manager and commissioners, now that the waiver is granted, that the parades will be classified as “city events” and funds to cover expenses will be paid out of the General Fund.