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 dharwell@tampabay.com.

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. Trump shuts down CEO advisory councils as main group acts to disband

    Business

    President Donald Trump's main council of top corporate leaders disbanded on Wednesday following the president's controversial remarks in which he equated white nationalist hate groups with the protesters opposing them. Soon after, the president announced on Twitter that he would end his executive councils, "rather than …

    President Donald Trump meets with Merck's chief executive, Kenneth Frazier, second from left, and other leaders of the pharmaceutical industry in the Roosevelt Room of the White House last January. On Wednesday, Trump's main council of top corporate leaders disbanded following the president's controversial remarks in which he equated white nationalist hate groups with the protesters opposing them.
[New York Times file photo]
  2. A long-awaited vision for Tampa's Westshore Marina District

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Twelve years after plans to develop a waterfront tract at the Tampa side of the Gandy Bridge were first announced, a new rendering finally gives a hint of what Westshore Marina District ultimately will look like.

    Rendering of Marina Pointe, a condo project overlooking Tampa Bay as part of the Westshore Marina District. [Courtesy of Masterfile Corp.}
  3. Buddy Brew Coffee to open downtown Tampa location

    Business

    TAMPA — Buddy Brew Coffee plans to open a new location in downtown Tampa at Park Tower in early 2018. The specialty coffee craft roaster, which was founded in 2010, has five other locations throughout Tampa including the Oxford Exchange, Sarasota, Hyde Park Village and Terminal F inside the Tampa International …

    A cappuccino is displayed at Buddy Brew in Tampa in January 2017. [CHARLIE KAIJO | Times]
  4. Where to pig out for National Bacon Lovers Day

    Food & Dining

    That's right: Sunday is the national day devoted to all things bacon, National Bacon Lovers Day. Which, really, isn't too different from the other 364 days of the year. But here's a little roundup of some special places to celebrate everyone's favorite meat snack (seriously, even vegans have a grudging respect …

    A creme-filled doughnut topped with maple frosting and bacon at Dough on MacDill Avenue in Tampa.
  5. The Penny Hoarder tops 79 fastest growing Tampa Bay companies on Inc. 5000

    Business

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Penny Hoarder on Wednesday further cemented its reputation as one of the country's fastest growing companies. The personal finance web site business ranks 25th nationwide and tops in the Tampa Bay market for growth on the 2017 Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing businesses.

    One of the fastest growing startups in the country is St. Petersburg's The Penny Hoarder, a financial advice web site aimed at helping readers save money. Playing a game in the office is (right to left) founder and CEO Kyle Taylor, vice president of business operations Vishal Mahtani and executive editor Alexis Grant. [Courtesy of The Penny Hoarder]