HISID says it will sue county over property taxes
HOLIDAY ISLAND -- Holiday Island will soon become embroiled in a third lawsuit, as the Board of Commissioners voted Wednesday to direct the district manager to proceed to sue the county.
In his report to the board, District Manager Gerald Hartley said he had received a letter from Carroll County Tax Assessor Jo Ann Harris. The district has been in dispute with Harris over whether it owes property taxes on quit-claimed and foreclosed lots, which number in the hundreds at this point.
Earlier this year the county sent a $70,000 tax bill to HISID for 532 lots that had delinquent taxes due from 2011. Then-Chairman Linda Griswold asked for a Board of Equalization appointment to contest the bill but later learned that was not the proper venue. In speaking with the assessor, Griswold reported Harris said she could not forgive any delinquent taxes or remove from the tax roll "any good property that has taxes due on it."
Past practice was for the district to pay back taxes due on foreclosed and quit-claimed lots before turning them over to the developer under a contract agreement for him to keep up with current taxes and try to resell the lots. That agreement fell apart earlier this year, and now HISID has hundreds of lots in its name.
Last month, the county published a list of first-time delinquent tax properties for 2011. Those listed as under HISID ownership were 151 lots, totaling around $13,000 in back taxes, but Harris said the real amount due is closer to $23,000.
Upon researching the legality question earlier this year, the district's attorney, Tom Morris, told Griswold he could not find anything in state law that makes HISID liable for those taxes, especially as they are not income-producing for the district. Harris' succinct letter, dated Nov. 30, disagrees.
"I do not believe that the property should be exempt," she wrote. "HISID will have to file an action."
After the motion was made to do so and discussion ensued, new commissioner Greg Davis objected.
"What benefit will it be to the district?" he asked. "Why would we start up another lawsuit?"
"Because the law is on our side," said Commissioner Linda Graves. "There is a Supreme Court decision. We can get a summary judgment."
"If we don't do this, there is a county tax lien against those properties, which reduces their salability," said Commissioner Bruce Larson.
Davis said he questions the ability of HISID to sell them at all, whether legally or whether anyone would buy them.
Although Davis said he would like to see the Supreme Court document before commissioners approved filing suit, the approval carried 4-1, with his the dissenting vote.