Tuesday, September 02, 2008

A.G. Nixes Business Lease Fee Credit

The Pensacola News Journal is reporting tonight that state attorney general Bill McCollum last week issued an advisory opinion that it would be unconstitutional for county commissioners or the Santa Rosa Island Authority to credit Pensacola Beach commercial lease fees against newly-imposed real estate taxes. The newspaper explains:
Santa Rosa Island Authority attorney Mike Stebbins had requested the legal opinion in response to a move in January by county commissioners to work with a group of commercial leaseholders concerned with having to pay both lease fees and property taxes on their Pensacola Beach businesses.

Some of them they say [sic] the burden of paying both is cutting too deeply into their profit margin making it near impossible to continue doing business on the beach.
Beach business lease fees for island property rented from the Santa Rosa Island Authority are calculated as a percentage of monthly gross sales revenues. The percentage ranges from two to five percent of the gross, and occasionally more. Beach businesses say that when real estate taxes are added to that, "they pay significantly more than other non-beach commercial businesses in Escambia County," the News Journal reports.

County commissioners were considering granting a dollar-for-dollar credit against real estate taxes owing for all Pensacola Beach businesses that paid lease fees. But McCollum's advisory ruling casts a dark shadow over that possibility now. Concluded McCollum:
[I]t is my opinion that the Santa Rosa Island Authority has no authority to offset lease fees payable to the authority from commercial leaseholders equal to ad valorem taxes collected against commercial leaseholders as such action would amount to an exemption from taxes where the exemption has no constitutional basis.
Attorney General Bill McCollum's advisory opinion can be found here.

9-3 am

Jamie Paige harvests island quotes about the McCollum advisory ruling in today's updated print edition version of the same news.
  • County commissioner Grover Robinson IV says he's "disappointed" and doesn't know "where we go from here."
  • Fred Simmons proposes abolishing business lease fees.
  • June Gerra says, "It's difficult to be positive about a government that is insensitive. It just kills your spirit."

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