Selby Gardens property tax issue is taken to court | Sarasota
Jennifer Rominiecki and Bill Furst haven’t publicly agreed on much since 2019, but they share the same vision on at least one thing: They’re unhappy with the outcome of an adjustment board meeting. the April 19 value which failed to end a long-standing dispute over the tax-exempt status of the bayfront property of the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.
Rominiecki, president and CEO of Selby, and Furst, the Sarasota County real estate appraiser, have spent more than a year debating whether all or part of the Selby lands should be subject to the ‘property tax. Rominiecki claimed the real estate expert was setting aside years of precedent and targeting standard operations for a non-profit organization. Furst claimed that certain activities at Selby Gardens in partnership with a for-profit operator did not qualify for an exemption and that Selby’s intransigence was keeping a simple matter.
After exchanging correspondence and presenting their arguments to an arbitrator, the two sides felt they had found a solution in March, when a special magistrate determined that the event rental activity made Selby beholden to a party. of its property tax.
In an email to Selby members, Rominiecki called the recommendation a “landslide victory,” pointing out that it would reduce the ad valorem tax bill by nearly $ 985,000 if the exemption was denied to just over $ 106,000. . Furst noted that Selby’s recommended tax debt was actually slightly higher than what his office said it should have been in 2019.
Both sides hoped that the April 19 meeting would end with a confirmation of the magistrate’s recommendation. The Value Adjustment Board is a state-sanctioned body responsible for hearing appeals relating to property value and tax disputes. However, later that day Rominiecki sent members another email stating that Selby was heading to court to preserve his property tax exemption.
In the email, Rominiecki said the Value Adjustment Board could not confirm the magistrate’s recommendation due to technicality. In an emailed statement to the Sarasota Observer, Rominiecki said an issue arose because the real estate appraiser’s team raised an alternate interpretation of a state statute two days before the Value Adjustment Commission hearing.
Rominiecki said Selby did not pay any part of his tax bill before reaching a resolution on an outstanding litigation, but the real estate appraiser’s team said Selby had to pay $ 13,073.99 in non-ad tax. valorem so that his petition is heard before the adjustment of the value. Advice.
Rominiecki said in an interview that Selby paid the non-ad valorem tax as soon as she learned of a potential problem, but the Value Adjustment Board attorney informed the board that he could not consider the petition of Selby because the organization had failed to meet the April 1 deadline. Although Rominiecki said she was confident the issue would be resolved by a circuit court, she attributed the lack of resolution to insufficient advice from Furst’s office.
“The courtesy of a communication from the real estate appraiser’s office would have saved a lot of taxpayer money spent on all of this effort,” Rominiecki said. “We had no intention of fulfilling any obligations.”
In an email, Furst admitted that his office had never informed Selby Gardens that it still had to pay its non-ad valorem taxes because his office failed to remind property owners of their need to pay taxes. The real estate appraiser does not charge or collect taxes, he said.
Furst said his office never raised an alternative interpretation of the statutes of state in Selby Gardens. He said the Clerk of the Value Adjustment Commission was reviewing the tax status of the petitioners before the final board meeting and that legal counsel in his office had contacted counsel for the board to find out whether that review had taken place. . Furst said the Value Adjustment Commission attorney was the one who contacted Selby about the non-payment issues.
“I repeat, it was never, nor is it now, the responsibility of the real estate appraiser to remind a landlord or taxpayer to pay their tax bill,” Furst said in the e- mail.
In the March email, Rominiecki highlighted a bill in the Florida House and Senate to clarify regulations regarding tax-exempt status. Furst said his office worked with lawmakers who introduced the bills – including Sarasota-area Sen. Joe Gruters – to help craft the language of the proposal.
Although Selby Gardens and the Office of the Real Estate Appraiser continue to disagree, both sides have expressed their desire to end the clash over the tax exemption issue.
“It’s just a shame that it can’t be a more productive dialogue,” Rominiecki said.