For nearly four years, the City of Ormond Beach and the Volusia County Property Appraiser have been at odds over taxes owed by River Bend Golf Club.
And while the ongoing litigation is currently on hold while a local district judge awaits resolution of a similar case in the Panhandle, both the city and the real estate appraiser have been digging on the matter on their heels.
When the case first went to court, the real estate appraiser argued that the city owed $240,848 in unpaid taxes that began assessing in 2013 — unbeknownst to the city of Ormond Beach, according to prosecutor Randy Hayes.
That is, until 2018, when the city submitted an ECHO funding application and was made aware of the tax issue. In an email to the Observer, Hayes said the real estate appraiser never sent a tax assessment notice to the city, instead sending it to the golf course tenant. While River Bend was then privately owned (the golf club closed in 2020), the city owns the land.
Real estate appraiser Larry Bartlett said urban land is considered tax-exempt — unless it’s leased to a for-profit corporation.
“I think it’s a shame it happened at all,” Bartlett said. “But we have to protect taxpayers and do our job. It’s unfortunate that the city is fighting this, but they know they owe the taxes.”
When the city determined that the real estate appraiser was “stuck” in its position that the city owed the taxes, the city filed a declaratory judgment seeking legal clarification of the validity of a 1997 final judgment granting a tax exemption to the city determined golf course and to identify the tax debtor.
“Rather than waiting for an answer to those two questions, the PA has filed suit against the city to force the city to pay the private tax liability allegedly owed by the golf course tenant, a tax liability the PA has never informed the city, never asked the tenant to pay, and never sued the tenant for confiscation,” Hayes wrote.
Since then, assessed taxes have grown to over $288,000. The city spent over $340,000 in outside legal fees that were paid from the insurance and litigation fund, not the general fund. Bartlett said his office did not spend anything on outside legal fees.
He added that the 1997 ruling was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2013, and as a result the exemption has been removed and the city, as the owner of the property, must pay the taxes.
But Hayes argued that if a tax is owed, it must be collected by the golf club tenant, not the city.
“The city cannot by law use public funds to pay a private debt – and therefore the city cannot simply pay taxes allegedly owed by the former tenant (whether taxes are owed or not is also a matter of debate),” wrote hayes
He also questioned why the real estate appraiser, who has been a constitutional officer since January 2020, is using the resources of the county legal department for the lawsuit.
Bartlett said his office is confident the judge will rule in their favor. At this point, he doesn’t think there’s a way to meet in the middle, but added that he hopes the issue will be resolved soon “because it takes up city and county resources that are best spent elsewhere.” could be used”.
Bartlett also said there are other ways the city could pay the tax.
“The City of Ormond Beach has now applied to the county for a $600,000 ECHO grant,” he said. “Well, that’s one way the city could meet its tax obligations, but it shouldn’t come down to that. The city should just do the right thing.”
Drug take-back initiative
The Ormond Beach Police Department will take part on Saturday, April 30 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. in the lobby of the Ormond Beach Police Department at 170 W. Granada Blvd. Participated in the US Drug Enforcement Administration 2022 initiative.
The public can take their expired, unwanted, or unused pharmaceutically controlled substances and medications to law enforcement agencies for proper disposal.
The Volusia Sheriff’s Office also participates. Drop off your prescription medication at 1435 US 1, Suite D-3 in Ormond Beach from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m
Portal for emergency rental assistance
Applications for Volusia County’s Emergency Rental Assistance program will be accepted beginning Wednesday, May 4 at 9:00 am.
Eligible households can receive up to nine months of rent and utility arrears and three months of forward assistance, according to a county press release. The funds are remnants of a previous federal grant that was not fully used.
The application portal remains open until the current funding has been exhausted. Visit volusia.org/era.
Volusia Forever is asking for suggestions
Volusia Forever, which funds the acquisition and improvement of environmentally responsible water resource conservation, managed forests, farmland and outdoor recreation areas, is accepting proposals through May 15. Sellers wishing to have their properties considered should visit volusia.org/forever