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Ormond Beach Observer Tuesday, Mar. 27, 2018 12 months ago

Unpaid taxes on River Bend Golf Course put city at odds with the county

The outstanding $135,000 could affect Ormond Beach's chance at receiving an ECHO grant.
by: Jarleene Almenas News Editor

The city of Ormond Beach is disputing an outstanding tax issue with Volusia County regarding the River Bend Golf Club, which could threaten the city's chance at receiving an ECHO grant. 

City Attorney Randy Hayes said the public golf club was identified as a tax exempt property until 2012, when the original leaseholder assigned a new lessee. According to the notes on the county's property appraiser's website, Hayes said the county removed the tax exemption in 2012 because it characterized the new lessee as a new lease, therefore disqualifying it for the exemption. The property owes $135,000 in taxes for the years 2012-2017, but as far as he, and the city's mayor are aware, tax bills were mailed to the current lessee and not the city. 

The city became aware of the issue last fall when the its grant coordinator submitted Ormond Beach's application for a $400,000 ECHO grant from the county. Hayes said the county likely would not want to provide taxpayer money for improvements in a city where taxes are owed.

“That in itself could naturally operate as a disqualifying factor for the city to receive the ECHO grant,” Hayes said. 

An issue for the current lessee would be determining whether or not the golf club remains a tax exempt property, which leads to whether or not the city can be compelled to pay a tax. The county says yes, but city staff don't believe the law supports that. Neither side has convinced the other that it is in the right at this point.

Ormond Beach Mayor Bill Partington said the county has to follow the law. He said the Florida Department of Revenue's general counsel's office said the city's position is correct.

“For the county to take an opposite position to that, it’s unfortunate and if we have to litigate it, if they force us to, it’s going to waste a lot of time and money, and I’m very confident the city will prevail,” Partington said.

A solution Hayes presented to the Volusia County property appraiser and county attorney's office is to file an action for declaratory relief, a civil lawsuit presented in court when parties are in doubt about what the rights and obligations are under a rule of law. The Echo grant application has been pushed back to April 17 in order to give the city a chance to work out a resolution.

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