An infusion of close to $62,000 in additional tax proceeds, as a result of a settlement with The St. Joe Company, helped lead to school employees’ ratification this week of a one-year contract deal.
The schools received a check last week from Tax Collector Jimmy Harris for $61,891 as a result of the settlement. The county received $53,745 from the settlement, while the Northwest Florida Water Management District got $698, for a total of $116,133.
Property Appraiser Rhonda Skipper said the settlement with The St. Joe Company dates back to 2007, when the company first went to court to protest the valuation of 147 lots in the SummerCamp development on the eastern end of the county. The company also sued over the appraisals for 2008 and 2009.
Skipper said St. Joe argued that some of their values were inflated because while there were contracts in 2004, for deeds agreed upon during the height of real estate market, these weren’t recorded until 2006, when values had already begun to fall.
She said she and Doris Pendleton, the former property appraiser, met with St. Joe representatives in April 2010 to discuss these valuations.
Skipper said the county offered St. Joe a $15 million reduction in value on the whole SummerCamp subdivision for three years. “We met and made that offer and heard nothing from them up until Doris retired,” she said.
Skipper said the company contacted the property appraiser’s office in October and December 2012, but the county’s offer remained the same.
Both sides then entered mediation and agreed on a $20 million property tax reduction over the three years.
“The biggest reason for the agreement is now the state of Florida says that whenever we’re qualifying sales, we must recognize the notarized acknowledged date of the document as opposed the actual recorded date,” said Skipper. “It gives the judge (the ability) to rule on so many ifs in the situation. We just didn’t feel it was a good gamble for the county. The judge could have waived the penalty and interest that St. Joe owed and it was quite a sum.”
Now that the lawsuit has been resolved, the monies that had been frozen now could be disbursed. – By DAVID ADLERSTEIN