Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

County Postpones Fire Tax for City | Officials Await Review of Properties They Still Consider to Be Taxable

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

County Postpones Fire Tax for City | Officials Await Review of Properties They Still Consider to Be Taxable

Article excerpt

ASSESSMENTS

Sarasota County will postpone charging the city of Sarasota for fire assessments on government-owned property that had been previously excluded from the tax.

County officials announced late Monday that although they remain confident that the properties are still taxable, they will not proceed with the charges until a review is finished next year.

They hope the delay prompts the city to drop its planned lawsuit against the county over the assessments.

"We think it probably should" be put on hold, Assistant County Administrator Steve Botelho said, "as we work with them and go through everything.

"If we hold off on the bills, we don't feel a lawsuit should proceed. At this time, we figured this is the best route to take."

The issue stems from 16 properties that are owned by the city but were flagged in county databases as taxable for the fire assessment - - even though they had not been charged in the past.

The county admitted it was wrong on three of those properties targeted for assessment, including a water tower. But

Botelho said the other 13 were still subject to the tax.

He and other county leaders agreed to hold off because of the timing of the dispute, which arose late in the budget process, and because the county was already set to review its process of administering fire assessment levies as part of a planned update next spring.

"Hopefully, a year from now, we'll be in a better situation where lawsuits aren't discussed," Botelho said.

The decision was outlined by the county in a letter sent to City Manager Tom Barwin late Monday. But by the time it was announced, the city leaders were already in a previously scheduled meeting and could not be reached for comment. A spokeswoman for the city reached Monday evening said she wasn't aware of the county's decision and couldn't comment.

The city has vigorously challenged the tax bill for months, bringing the dispute to light during a county budget hearing last month, when one county official accused the city of "political theater" for raising the issue. …

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