Citrus County officials approved $350,000 in spending on Monday to begin its fight against Duke Energy over a property tax bill the utility refuses to pay in full. The Citrus Board of County Commissioners and the county school board each agreed to pay $175,000 for initial legal and further appraisal costs of Duke Energy's property. Duke, the North Carolina parent company of Progress Energy Florida, owns the Crystal River power station in Citrus County that includes the utility's sole nuclear plant in the state. The power station also houses four coal-fired plants.
Citrus Property Appraiser Geoffrey Greene sent Duke a property tax bill for $35 million based on the assessed value of the power station and the utility's other assets in the county. But when it came time to pay the bill, Duke paid just $19 million and sued the appraiser over the balance. Duke said Greene issued too high an assessment for the nuclear plant, which broke in 2009 and has remained idle ever since, and for pollution control systems on two of the coal plants. Duke's decision came after the county had certified its tax rolls and set budgets. The $16 million in lost revenue means the school system is short more than $8 million in its budget and the county government is short more than $7 million. Citrus is preparing its response to Duke's lawsuit in the county Circuit Court.