PINELLAS PARK — Two council members are again behind on their property taxes and, if they do not pay them, risk losing properties at public auction, according to the Pinellas County Tax Collector's Office.
Marked as delinquent on one parcel is Rick Butler, a Realtor who has served on the Pinellas Park council since 1998. Council member Jerry Mullins, a business owner who has been on the council since 2008 and chairs the city's Community Redevelopment board, is marked as delinquent on three parcels.
Butler said he has recently paid some of his back taxes, but has not been able to pay the most recent assessments. Part of the problem, he said, is the poor real estate market that has put him in a financial bind. A property he owns on Park Boulevard, he said, is for sale and has been for a while.
Mullins, who is in construction, also blamed the poor economy for his failure to stay current on his taxes.
"First time in years I've been behind on my taxes," Mullins said. "I'll be taking care of them as soon as I possibly can."
Mullins said he did not think the economic downturn would last as long as it did. When it first began, he said, he bought out 14 other construction companies in an effort to help those owners through a tough time. And now, he said, he's barely keeping his own head above water.
"It's just been one thing after another," Mullins said. And, now, with the oil spill, folks are even less likely to want to build anything in the area.
Mullins said he's concentrating on paying immediate bills — things like wages and gas. But, if worse comes to worst, he said he'll have to sell a couple of his collector cars to make ends meet.
Mullins owes a total of nearly $22,000 on his three parcels.
About $9,500 of that is for 2008 and 2009 taxes on land he and David Harrington own at 5201 66th Way N. The property is valued at $187,778.
The county considers property taxes delinquent if they have not been paid by April 1 the year after they are due.
Mullins owes another $7,000 on the home he and his wife, Caren, own at 7180 73rd St. N. Again, the total is for 2008 and 2009, both of which are delinquent. The property is valued at $1,076,922, but because he has owned it for so long, the Save Our Homes cap means he pays taxes as if the home is valued at $179,125. Subtract the $50,000 in homestead exemptions and he pays city and county taxes as if the value is $129,125.
Mullins owes an additional $5,700 for 2008 and 2009 on a second parcel he and his wife own at 5771 59th St. N. The land is valued at $78,896.
Tax certificates have already been issued for the 2008 taxes on all three parcels and the 2009 delinquencies were offered for sale on June 1. The buyer of a tax certificate pays the back due taxes and charges interest to the property owner. If the property owner fails to pay back the taxes, costs and interest within two years after the sale, the certificate holder may apply for a deed to the property and the tax collector can auction the land.
County records show Butler owes a total of about $4,900 in back taxes, interest and other costs on property he and his wife, Carol, own at 5635 Park Blvd., the site of his real estate office. The property has an assessed value of $90,000.
As in Mullins' case, a tax certificate has been issued for the 2008 taxes and the 2009 delinquency was advertised to be sold June 1.
This is not the first time Mullins and Butler have been delinquent. Both had back due taxes in 2008 during the election campaign for City Council.
At the time, Mullins was not delinquent on his home although he owed taxes on the other two properties. He said then that he did not know the taxes were past due until a Times reporter called to ask him about them. He also said then that he had once owned the property at 66th Way with Harrington, a former employee, but had sold it to him years before and did not know his name was still on it as an owner. He paid the taxes on both after the reporter called to discuss the issue.
Reach Anne Lindberg at [email protected] or (727) 893-8450.