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Citrus County Progress Energy Taxes: County takes first big crack at filling huge Duke Energy tax money hole

8:18 AM, Jan 8, 2013   |    comments
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Inverness, Florida -- Where will they get money to teach kids, pave roads, and fight crime? That's what Citrus County commissioners will take on Tuesday.

A lot of families here in the Bay Area have had to stop in their tracks and re-plan their budgets after a big, unexpected change.

Now imagine that budget of yours is responsible for keeping 140,000 people safe and educating more than 10,000 kids.

That's the challenge facing leaders in one Tampa Bay county starting Tuesday.

Where will they get the money next year to teach the kids, to pave the roads, and to protect and serve?

That's what commissioners in Citrus County will try to tackle in a major way for the first time at their Tuesday afternoon board meeting at 1 p.m. in Inverness.

The county's administrator will start presenting a plan for their 2013-2014 budget. And in that plan, he'll have to explain how they hope to get by with around $16 million missing.

That money is off the table because Citrus County's single largest taxpayer has decided to only pay half of its tax bill.

Progress Energy and its parent company Duke Energy scoffed late last year at the $35 million bill sent to it by the property appraiser.

Instead, the company sent the county a check for $19 million and told the county it would have to sue to get the rest.

Duke Energy says the county's tax assessment is unfair and the bill should be lower.

That's because the nuclear plant in Crystal River has been broken down for three years so it isn't worth as much, plus pollution reducing equipment at the plant is worth far less than the county says it is.

County officials have said the company's just trying to stiff them to save a buck.

The County Commission is suing to get the missing $16 million and to force another full payment of around $35 million in this coming year.

Commissioners have set aside a lot of cash -- a total of $350,000 along with the school board -- for legal fees to go after that money.

But while that lawsuit winds its way through the courts, commissioners plan to face reality Tuesday.

They'll start planning for back-to-back years with back-to-back unpaid bills totaling millions. 

Grayson Kamm, 10 News

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