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Pinellas superintendent Janssen overdue on Tallahassee condo taxes

For the fourth time in nine years, Pinellas County school superintendent Julie Janssen and her estranged husband are delinquent on property taxes on a Tallahassee condominium they own.

The overdue taxes are the latest in a series of personal financial problems for Janssen, who makes $200,000 a year and heads a district with a $1.5 billion budget. The Janssens' Pinellas home is in foreclosure proceedings, though a sale is pending.

Property taxes were due March 31. In an e-mail to a reporter Friday, Janssen declined to say why the taxes are delinquent, saying only that they would be paid by the end of April along with any late fees.

She also revealed that she is divorcing Dennis Janssen, her second husband, whom she married 25 years ago. The divorce case was filed in March in Hillsborough County.

In 1988, the Janssens paid $45,500 for a unit in the Tomahawk Terrace Condominiums, across from Doak Campbell football stadium at Florida State University. Dennis Janssen, a lawyer, went to FSU as an undergraduate.

The couple sold the condo to a St. Petersburg chiropractor for $50,000 in 1995, nine months before they declared bankruptcy. They bought it back from the same man for $53,000 in 2001.

The taxes were paid on time that year, but were delinquent from 2002 to 2004. The Leon County Tax Collector's Office sold the debt in the form of tax certificates, which the Janssens redeemed by paying the taxes plus interest.

Property taxes are one of the chief means of support for Florida public schools. As in Janssen's own district, declining revenue has forced steep cuts in the Leon County school budget.

The Janssens' mortgage on the condo requires them to pay the taxes, unlike the case with their Pinellas home. On that, the 2010 taxes of $10,398 were paid out of mortgage escrow funds.

The couple bought the four-bedroom, 31/2-bath house on Boca Ciega Bay in 2001 and refinanced it four years ago for $1.33 million. They embarked on a renovation that included, according to the listing, cherry hardwood flooring, "a fabulous gourmet kitchen" and "beautifully appointed pool and spa area."

The Janssens defaulted on the mortgage last summer. The bank began foreclosing in January but offered the couple a loan modification subject to successful completion of a trial payment period.

Janssen told the St. Petersburg Times in February that she had paid the first monthly installment of $9,281. On Friday, she wouldn't say whether she or her husband had made any further payments.

The Janssens have been trying to sell the house, which went on the market in mid January for $1.45 million and is now listed at $1.1 million — $200,000 less than the amount owed. The Suncoast Multiple Listing Service shows a pending sale but does not give a price.

With real estate still in the doldrums, banks often approve short sales in which a house is sold for less than the mortgaged amount.

Janssen, 62, declined to give any details of the pending sale. "These are private matters, and I am working with real estate and financial professionals to guide me through each of these issues," she said.

Peggy O'Shea, the only School Board member who could be reached Friday, declined to comment on the Janssens' personal affairs.

The superintendent "is doing her job, she's doing what she needs to do," O'Shea said. "What their financial arrangements are is between them."

Susan Taylor Martin can be reached at susan@sptimes.com.

Pinellas superintendent Janssen overdue on Tallahassee condo taxes 04/15/11 [Last modified: Friday, April 15, 2011 10:59pm]
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