The Mouse That Roared

Another victory.

A few months ago we told you how St Lucie County was earning interest at 18% on $13 million of uncollected taxes, most of which was due the City of Port St Lucie. How the county, without putting up a dime, was earning some hefty interest on nothing but an accounting entry. You can read about it here, Money For Nothing. Last month we laid out the situation with City Center, the unpaid taxes and the undeveloped land. You can read about it here, Port St Lucie City Center Problem. Tuesday’s front page article in the TCPalm told how the county would finally put the City Center property up for auction. Just a coincidence? We think not. The county admittedly has held these tax certificates since 2009. What they won’t tell you is that by law they should have put them up for sale in 2011. Yes, check your calendar, that was four years ago. Here is a link to a page from the actual bond document (indenture) on the bonds that financed City Center. On page 24 you will find this excerpt… If the county holds a tax certificate and has not succeeded in selling it, the county must apply for a tax deed on all tax certificates on properties valued at $5,000 or more two (2) years after April 1 of the year of issuance. (bold type face is ours) Yes, the county was to take action 2 years after the first tax certificate was issued to them. The word is ‘MUST’; not ‘may’; not ‘we’d prefer to earn 18% interest so we’ll disregard the law’. Words have meaning. So, why not then and why now? Who wants to give up 18%? Who cares that Port St Lucie, St Lucie County Schools and all the other taxing agencies are short changed all those years. And if no one notices, who is to be the wiser? Unfortunately for the county, we noticed. The question remains, why didn’t anyone at the city notice? City manager and his staff, city attorney and her staff, budget office and their staff, they all bemoaned City Center but no one bothered to read the rules of the game. As for the county, was it an oversight, or willful negligence. Was earning 18% just too lucrative to give it up? How many other tax certificates are they holding on other properties that must be acted upon? What other laws are they neglecting to adhere to because it is in county’s best interest to do so even at the cost of others? Lots of questions with very few answers. It shows that it only takes a few involved citizens to make a difference. Just a few to scratch the surface and shine light on a situation. Just a few voices to put things right. It’s time to get off the couch. Stay tuned and sign up for further analysis!

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