City may sue over Trop tax billBy BRYAN GILMER and LISA GREENE
© St. Petersburg Times,
published November 29, 2001
ST. PETERSBURG -- The City Council today will consider whether to sue the Pinellas County Property Appraiser over the tax bill for Tropicana Field.
The city received its first tax bill on the domed Major League Baseball stadium this year after the Florida Supreme Court removed the property tax exemption for stadiums owned by a city and used by a for-profit team.
The city faces a net tax bill of nearly $1.5-million per year, most of which would go to Pinellas County schools. The stadium is appraised at $127.3-million.
City Attorney John Wolfe recommends the city hire an outside attorney who says he thinks he can get the bill cut in half. Rob Kelley Jr. of Holland & Knight charges $275 per hour and estimates that the legal fees for the case will cost $150,000 to $200,000 if the case goes to trial, Wolfe wrote to the council.
Assistant City Attorney Mark Winn said the suit would challenge how Property Appraiser Jim Smith's staff put a value on the stadium. They calculated replacement value.
"We're looking at them to use sort of a blended valuation methodology, more than just the actual costs of building it," Winn said.
Smith said his office originally valued the stadium at $169-million, but reduced that to $127-million after subtracting depreciation and other factors.
"And they're going to cut that in half?" he asked. "Show me. Show me, show me, show me."
Smith said the litigation would show only that the value his staff set should be higher Winn said the city is contesting the bill because the money the city would use to pay the bill is money residents and businesses already have paid in tax.
Smith said he met with city officials about the bill months ago and told them he would consider any evidence they brought him to support a lower value. He heard nothing until Mayor Rick Baker told him Tuesday of the proposed lawsuit.
"They've taken a quantum leap from one initial talk with us to a lawsuit that I don't think they have a chance to win," he said.
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