Make us your home page
Instagram

Settlement favors Duke Energy in tax dispute with Citrus County

Citrus County has thrown in the towel in its multimillion-dollar tax dispute with Duke Energy, settling a 15-month battle over unpaid taxes that forced the county into a budget crisis.

Duke, the rural county's largest taxpayer, will drop its lawsuits against the county in exchange for lower property appraisals and tax bills.

Arguing Citrus had overvalued its power plant and other holdings, Duke paid only $41 million of its $96 million in county property taxes over the past two years. As part of a settlement, Duke will pay Citrus $7.5 million more.

The holdout by Duke, which once funded 25 percent of Citrus' property tax rolls, sparked a fiscal emergency in the rustic gulf-front county of 140,000 about 65 miles north of St. Petersburg.

The county last year raised homeowners' tax rate by 27 percent, costing a resident owning a $100,000 home about $13 a year. The plunge also opened a sudden chasm in public budgets: Citrus schools have in three years lost $10 million as a result of lower-than-anticipated tax revenue, School Board records show.

Citrus officials said they agreed to settle because of rising legal bills in their battle with Duke, the largest power company in the country. The county had already spent $1.4 million preparing for trial scheduled for May.

County officials also underlined weaknesses in their own case, pointing to opposition from the state Department of Revenue, a disconnect from how other counties appraise property and early resistance in the courts.

A judge in November agreed with Duke that a pollution-control system the county had appraised at market value should have instead been marked as salvage, undermining one of the county's core arguments.

Even a successful trial, officials said, would have likely brought with it a lengthy, pricey appeal, with no immediate revenue, promise of success or end in sight.

"It was a difficult decision," Citrus County property appraiser Les Cook said Thursday, "but I had to look at what was legally supportable."

Duke first refused to pay its tax bill in November 2012, three months before announcing the closure of its CR3 nuclear plant. A botched repair attempt there transformed the plant, which helped make Duke into Citrus' largest private employer, into a giant paperweight.

The North Carolina-based utility's property in Citrus will be valued this year at $1.3 billion, a full $1 billion below the county's appraisal in 2012. An independent appraiser hired by Citrus last year suggested it had an even higher value, about $3.4 billion.

Cook was appointed property appraiser by Gov. Rick Scott in January after the death of Geoffrey Greene, who had spearheaded the county's legal battle.

Duke spokeswoman Nicole LeBeau said the utility appreciated "the cooperative efforts" with Cook and "looked forward to continuing to be an instrumental part of this community."

Contact Drew Harwell at (727) 893-8252 or [email protected]

Settlement favors Duke Energy in tax dispute with Citrus County 03/20/14 [Last modified: Thursday, March 20, 2014 9:11pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Moffitt CEO Alan List, new chair of Tampa Hillsborough EDC, outlines goals for 2018

    Economic Development

    Moffitt Cancer Center CEO Alan List was officially elected the 2018 chairman of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. at the EDC's annual meeting held Tuesday night at the Amalie Arena. He endorsed a stronger pursuit of life science business for the region and praised ongoing efforts to raise the national …

    Dr. Alan F. List, CEO of Tampa's Moffitt Cancer Center, now wears an economic development hat as the 2018 chairman of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. [Special to the Times]
  2. Demolition begins on wing of Channelside Bay Plaza, making way for Water Street Tampa (w/video)

    Business

    TAMPA — The original developers of Channelside Bay Plaza at first wanted the name of the complex to include the word "Garrison." That would have fit, because the center turned out to be fort-like, inwardly focused and unwelcoming.

    A pedestrian bridge in the southwest wing of Channelside Bay Plaza was demolished in Tampa on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017. [Gabriella Angotti-Jones  | Times]
  3. Sunday Supper returns with 25 chefs, food fests galore

    Food & Dining

    Save the date: SUNDAY SUPPER

    This just might be the dinner of the year. The Bern's family of restaurants has organized a James Beard Foundation fundraiser to fund the Bern Laxer Memorial Scholarship for culinary students in the state of Florida for a number of years. But this week they announced the …

    Bern’s Steak House located at 1208 S Howard Ave, Tampa on Wednesday 2/19014
  4. Locale Market changes yet again, rebranding the restaurant as FarmTable Cucina

    Food & Dining

    When Locale Market opened in Sundial St. Pete in Dec. 2014, it was the most-hyped, most-anticipated gourmet market/food hall/culinary playground Tampa Bay had ever seen. Since then, celebrity chef-owner Michael Mina has done what every entrepreneur does in the face of challenges: tinker.

    Chef Michael Mina and chef Jeffrey Hileman work in the kitchen at Farmtable Kitchen in 2016. EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times
  5. U.S. home construction tumbles 4.7 percent in September

    Working Life

    WASHINGTON — Construction of new homes fell 4.7 percent in September, the biggest decline in six months, reflecting weakness in both single-family activity and apartment building.

    Construction of new homes fell 4.7 percent in September, the biggest decline in six months, reflecting weakness in both single-family activity and apartment building.  [Associated Press file photo]