Saturday, December 16, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Duke Energy emerges a winner in tax fight

The Citrus County Property Appraiser's Office had little choice but to end its legal fight with Duke Energy over the appraisal of the utility's Crystal River power plants. An earlier court ruling gutted the county's case and revealed it likely had overvalued the site by nearly $2 billion.

The settlement, announced last week, ends the public's legal expenses and requires Duke to pay $7.5 million in additional property taxes to the county and School Board for 2012 and 2013. (The utility already paid nearly $42 million.) The agreement also sets the value of the property for the 2014 tax year at $1.3 billion, 44 percent higher than the $900 million assessment Duke indicated it would seek because of closing its nuclear plant there.

Regardless of those numbers, this is a clear victory for Duke. Its 2013 appraisal plummeted $1.9 billion and its cumulative two-year tax payment of $49.4 million is 50 percent less than what the county billed it in 2012 and 2013. The public is settling for capping its legal bills at $1.4 million and accepting added tax payments that aren't nearly the windfall for which local officials had hoped. And the Citrus County Commission and Citrus School Board now have more certainty over how much revenue they can expect from the county's largest taxpayer in 2014.

Duke Energy's Crystal River complex, which makes up a quarter of the county's tax rolls, includes four coal-burning units and the shuttered nuclear plant, but most of the dispute centered on the value of two coal units' pollution control systems. Former Property Appraiser Geoffrey Green, citing a 1998 court ruling, put the higher-priced market value on the equipment. But Duke Energy pointed to a 1967 state law allowing a tax break for the pollution controls by listing them at salvageable value. Four months ago, a circuit judge sided with the utility and said Green had no legal standing to question the validity of the 1967 law. It decimated the property appraiser's case and forced current Property Appraiser Les Cook, who assumed office in January after Green's death, to negotiate from a severely weakened position.

Cook, however, made the right decision. Risking added legal expenses with little chance of return would have been imprudent. But the end of the litigation and Duke's substantial windfall is hard to swallow for Citrus County residents. It translates to a higher tax burden for every other property owner in the county.

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Editorial: Warren’s smart approach on guns, domestic violence

Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren would make it safer for victims and police alike with his plan to remove firearms from defendants charged with domestic violence. These cases are toxic enough, and having guns at the ready only adds to a dang...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

The St. Petersburg City Council made the difficult but correct decision this week to reject the proposed sale of a local nonprofit’s minority stake in Bayfront hospital. Despite months of negotiations, there were too many questions, a few suspicions ...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Here’s a snapshot of misplaced priorities in Washington. Last week, the Federal Communications Commission foolishly rushed to scrap net neutrality rules and allow internet service providers to treat different content differently despite overwhelming ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

With misconduct allegations rippling through all levels of government, Gov. Rick Scott has taken the prudent step of ordering uniform sexual harassment policies throughout state agencies. The executive order strengthens protections for victims, which...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

For three years, the only news about finances at Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry was bad news: "Struggling MOSI asks Hillsborough County for $400,000 loan," one headline read, "Audit sees MOSI finances slipping," read another, and "MOSI donor ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

For once, it would be nice to see Sen. Marco Rubio stand up as the independent leader he aspires to become. For once, the Florida Republican should hold his position rather than bow to pragmatic politics. Rubio can stick with his threat Thursday to v...
Published: 12/14/17

Another voice: A shameful anniversary

Josephine "Joey" Gay should have celebrated her 12th birthday this week. She should have been surrounded by friends and family in a place festooned with purple, her favorite color.Chase Kowalski should have been working toward a Boy Scout merit badge...
Published: 12/13/17
Updated: 12/14/17
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesday’s special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
Published: 12/12/17