WFSU News Team
Fri August 23, 2013
Duke Energy Fights Citrus County Over Property Tax
Duke Energy is fighting Citrus County over the value of its power plants in *Crystal River, leaving the county to cover a multi-million dollar budget gap.
In 2012, Duke Energy had a problem with the property tax assessed on its Crystal River coal power plants. When they received notice that they owed $36 million in property tax, they only paid about $19 million. They decided to take Citrus County to court over the rest.
Geoffrey Greene is Citrus County’s property appraiser. He said when Duke took over Progress Energy, it brought a change in philosophy.
“No, we saw it from day one. It was pretty much ‘my way or the highway,’” said Greene.
Duke Energy spokesman Sterling Ivey disagrees. He said this dispute goes back to before Duke took over.
“We’ve had ongoing conversations with the property appraiser’s office in trying to come to an agreement and settle the property tax case long before Duke formally took over ownership of Progress Energy,” said Ivey.
The conflict revolves around pollution control equipment installed in the power plants. In 1998, a judge ruled that the equipment in question was taxable property. Ivey said the pollution equipment is salvageable property and shouldn’t be assessed at a fair market value. He said that’s how every other property appraiser has operated.
But Greene disagrees.
“Not only are they getting every dollar of investment back, they’re making six, to ten, to eleven percent return, depending on the piece of equipment,” said Greene.
In the meantime, Citrus County has to make up the fifteen million dollars Duke Energy is refusing to pay. In order to cover the shortfall, officials raised property taxes. Assistant Property Appraiser Les Cooke said one group will be affected most of all.
“Single-family homes will bear the brunt of picking up the underpayment from Duke,” said Cooke.
While the case could take years to be resolved, Greene said he’s cautiously optimistic. He said two judges have already ruled in favor of Citrus County.
*This story originally listed Clearwater as the location of the Duke nuclear power plants. The correct location is Crystal River.