CLEARWATER — Pinellas County believes it has immunity when it comes to paying property taxes on land it owns in Pasco County.
But Pasco County’s Property Appraiser Gary Joiner disagrees, and so does the 2nd District Court of Appeal, which on May 3 reversed an earlier court decision that favored Pinellas’ position.
Pinellas bought the 8,200-acre Cross Bar Ranch in 1976 and the adjoining 4,200-acre Al Bar Ranch in 1989 to help supply its water needs. All 12,400 acres are located in central Pasco County.
Seventeen wellhead sites located on 6.41 acres began producing drinking water in 1980. The county sold the wells and water rights on Crossbar in the mid-1990s as part of a deal that created Tampa Bay Water.
Pasco County made an offer to purchase the land in 2014, which Pinellas declined.
For years, Pinellas paid property taxes to Pasco County. Then in 2014, the county’s Inspector General suggested that Pinellas might be immune from paying those taxes. In 2015, Pinellas filed suit in the Pasco Circuit Court asking for immunity from paying taxes. Pinellas won.
Pasco’s Property Appraiser then filed an appeal. Two of the three judges on the 2nd District Court of Appeal agreed with Pasco that Pinellas did not have immunity, reversing the previous decision.
County Attorney Jewel White told commissioners May 7 that she planned to file a motion asking for a rehearing, especially since one of the three appellate judges had agreed with Pinellas’ position.
Commissioner Janet Long asked if the commission wanted to reconsider its decision to sell the property to Pasco and the answer was no. Commissioners did agree it was time to get an update on the property.
Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.