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Citrus County nearly doubles Duke Energy's tax bill

Duke Energy's 2013 tax bill from Citrus County — home of the shuttered Crystal River nuclear plant — nearly doubled after an independent appraiser found unreported and under reported utility property.

The county issued tax notices this week and determined that Duke owes $63 million in property taxes this year, despite the utility's earlier claim that it has been overcharged.

Last year, the county said Duke owed $36 million in property taxes. But the company paid just $19 million and sued the county over the difference.

The dispute over the tax payments plunged Citrus into a budget crisis. The county then hired an independent appraiser to review all of Duke's property in Citrus and determined that it had a value of $3.45 billion.

Geoffrey Greene, Citrus' property appraiser, said he not heard from Duke about the latest tax bill but stands by the assessment.

"Based on the independent appraisal and the new millage rate … I would calculate it to be around $63 million," Greene said.

Duke was reviewing the matter Friday.

"Duke Energy has fairly and accurately reported all of its property in Citrus County," said Sterling Ivey, a Duke spokesman. "We continue to review the property appraiser's independent appraisal, as well as complete the work of our own independent analysis for the 2013 tax year."

Prior to the dispute, Duke's property taxes made up about a quarter of the county's tax base. The Crystal River energy complex includes four coal-fired plants and the now-closed nuclear plant.

Duke argues that the county appraiser overvalued the broken nuclear plant. The nuclear plant closed permanently in February, and customers no longer have to pay operating and maintenance costs. The utility said that, too, should reduce the property's value.

The utility also said the county overvalued the $1.5 billion pollution control systems on two coal-fired units at the Crystal River power complex. Duke said the county based its assessment on the cost of the pollution control systems rather than their salvage value, as it should have.

Ivan Penn can be reached at ipenn@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2332.

Citrus County nearly doubles Duke Energy's tax bill 08/16/13 [Last modified: Friday, August 16, 2013 6:56pm]
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