2017 Disaster Preparedness
Tax Holiday is June 2-4


Published May 25, 2017 at 10:17 p.m.
on the Business Page of HardisonInk.com
     TALLAHASSEE --
The 2017 Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday has been passed by the Florida Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott.
     This sales tax holiday begins at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, June 2, and ends at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, June 4.
     During this sales tax holiday, qualifying items related to disaster preparedness are exempt from sales tax. However, the sales tax holiday does not apply to the rental or repair of any of the qualifying items.
     Additionally, the sales tax holiday does not apply to sales in a theme park, entertainment complex, public lodging establishment or airport.
     For more information and a list of qualifying items, please review the Department of Revenue's Tax Information Publication (TIP) on the 2017 Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday, as well as the Frequently Asked Questions document. Please click HERE for the TIP.

 

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Financial planner
speaks to Rotarians


Lancent C. Warren Sr. shows a triangle to demonstrate aggressive investments, growth investments, growth and income investments, income investments and cash.

Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © May 23, 2017 at 7:47 p.m.
     WILLISTON --
Members and guests of the Rotary Club of Williston on Tuesday afternoon (May 23) enjoyed learning about investing money, and as the members of this club are so inclined, everyone had fun.

     Once again, too, Angie Brooks, the wife of Rotary Treasurer Matt Brooks, had arranged a delightful lunch for everyone to enjoy in a buffet serving style. On Tuesday, it was submarine sandwiches, a wide variety of potato chips, salad and a freshly baked cherry crunch type of pie with ice cream on top. The dessert was still very warm – right out of the oven.
     The ala mode option was by choice. Some diners went with the added ice cream and other just enjoyed the delicious, homemade, freshly cooked cherry crunch.
     Soft drinks, such as Coca-Cola were the drink of the day.


Lancent C. Warren Sr. accepts a Rotary Club tumbler as a gift for being the keynote speaker. The Melbourne resident drove to Williston at the request of Rotarian Mary O'Banyoun-Abdullah.

     The keynote speaker was Lancent C. Warren Sr., the owner of the L.C. Warren Group, which helps people through the LPL Financial Group of Melbourne.
     Warren drove for two hours from Melbourne to Williston to be the speaker thanks to Rotarian Mary O'Banyoun-Abdullah inviting him.
     Warren was born and grew up in the Melbourne and Palm Bay area.
     His hobbies include fishing, shrimping and playing an occasional round of golf. He attends Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist church in Melbourne, where he serves on the Laymen’s department. Warren graduated from the University of Central Florida with a Bachelor's Degree in General Business in 2001.
     He has been providing financial planning services since 1999, initially with Edward Jones.
     As he led into his presentation about investing, Warren spoke about an index of the American stock market based on the market capitalizations of 500 large companies having common stock listed on the New York Stock Exchange or on the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations.
     History showed gains in that index of 106 percent between 1997 and the year 2000.
     Warren said the fear that something drastic was going to happen with Y2K (when the year went from 1999 to 2000), may have impacted the markets a little.
     Then from March 24, 2000 to Oct. 9, 2002 there was a 49 percent drop in value of those stocks.
     In five years, that index showed a 101 percent increase in value.
     Then next two years there was a 57 percent drop.
     From March 9, 2009 through April 30, 2017, however there has been a 252 percent increase in value in this particular index used to gauge one aspect of investing.
     Using this, he asked the Rotarians for their projections on what would happen next in the near future.
     One visitor predicted a continued increase at the rate shown over the past eight years.
     Some people predicted a downward trend, perhaps basing their guesses on historic ups and downs.
     Warren said the economic indicators now look decent. Companies are making money, and they are using that to increase revenue more.
     There has been a lot of job growth, he said, but there has not been a lot of wage growth. So, when wages catch up with job growth, Warren said there may be some leveling off from the continuous increase in capitalizations of 500 large companies during the past eight years.
     Beyond the prognostication, however, Warren shared with Rotary members and guests some essential foundations for considering the available mix of investment offerings.
     He used a triangle as a starting figure. He showed the top part of it for the more risky investments, which may bring a higher percentage of return – but also may result in a higher percentage of loss. Those are known as aggressive investments.
     There are growth investments, and then there other investments that pay dividends to help a person have more income as well as showing possible growth in value.
     Cash investments, such as certificates of deposit, show the lowest percentage of return, but they are the safest.
     A financial advisor will speak with an investor to determine what that person’s goal is, where they are in their life, and what the best recommendation for investing results from these and other questions being answered.
     While the triangle is a starting figure, depending on the investor’s directions for the investment advisor, that triangle be revised in its shape.
     Warren’s presentation provided listeners with a quick starting point to understand general terms as an investor. He gave his speech in a friendly, easy to understand format.
     As for the Rotary Club of Williston’s meeting, in addition to the speaker providing listeners with insight, it was another fun event.   
     The 11-year-old Williston Rotary Club is a relatively small and yet powerful club. It helps Williston area children. On the broader perspective, these Rotarians are part of the global fight against polio worldwide.
     One of the traditional games for the Williston Rotary Club is a trivia quiz of five questions where the table of contestants with an incorrect answer pays $1 per each incorrect answer.
     There is an opportunity for the table with the most incorrect answers to go double or nothing. The table with five incorrect answers Tuesday afternoon was the one with O'Banyoun-Abdullah, Warren and a visiting journalist. That group passed on the opportunity to pay either $10 or zero dollars.
     O'Banyoun-Abdullah paid $5 to fight polio, and actually funded 15 children being vaccinated thanks to Gates’ matching donation.
     The one table that chose the double or nothing option was the table with Jim Mixson and Vice President Danny Etheridge. They guessed correctly and paid zero dollars rather than $6 (for their three missed answers at $1 each times two, to equal $6, if they had answered incorrectly and paid double).
     Past Rotary President Blake Fugate, who is the quiz creator as well as part of the life of the party, jokingly commented about Mixson and Etheridge taking $6 away from children who would have been vaccinated against polio, and actually taking away $18 because Bill Gates matches Rotary donations to fight polio with vaccinations three-to-one.
     Williston Rotary President Jana Carlisle and Treasurer Brooks were unable to attend Tuesday.
     The officers and members who were present were Vice President Etheridge, Secretary Fran Taylor, Past President Fugate, and members O'Banyoun-Adbullah, Mixson and Patsy Fugate. The guests were Warren and the rarely-appearing, but always-welcome journalist Jeff M. Hardison.
     The meeting was at First Presbyterian Church of Williston in the Prudence Ross Fellowship Hall. Next Tuesday the meeting will be a Red, White and Blues Farm, 3250 N.E. 140th Ave., in Williston, with socialization at 11:45 a.m. and the meeting’s start slated for high noon.



On 529 Day,
Think About College Savings Plans
Published May 22, 2017 at 8:37 p.m.
on the Business Page of HardisonInk.com

     You probably won’t see it on your calendar, but May 29 (5/29) is 529 College Savings Day, or 529 Day for short.
     This day, named after the 529 plan, a popular college-savings vehicle, is designed to promote people’s awareness of the need to save and invest for the high costs of higher education. And that need has never been greater. Consider the following:
     • College prices keep moving up. College costs just keep rising. For the 2016–2017 school year, the average cost (tuition, fees, room and board) was about $20,000 for in-state students at public universities and more than $45,000 for private schools, according to the College Board. These costs are likely to continue climbing.
     • Student debt is at record levels. Of the Class of 2016 graduates who received loans – about 70% of the total student population – the average individual debt was $37,172, a record high, according to a study cited by CBS News.
     What can you do to help your children graduate from college without having to provide a big “IOU” in exchange for a diploma? In the spirit of 529 Day, you might want to consider investing in a 529 plan. It’s certainly not the only means of saving for college, but it does offer some attractive benefits.
     For starters, contribution limits are quite high – you can accumulate more than $200,000 per beneficiary in many state plans. And you can typically invest in the 529 plan offered by any state, even if you don’t reside there. If you do invest in your own state’s plan, you may be eligible for state income tax incentives.
     Also, all withdrawals from 529 plans will be free from federal income taxes, as long as the money is used for a qualified college or graduate school expense of the beneficiary you’ve named — typically, your child or grandchild. (Withdrawals for expenses other than qualified education expenditures may be subject to federal and state taxes and a 10% penalty on the earnings portion of the distribution.)
     Furthermore, you have complete control of your 529 plan assets. You decide who will get the money and when he or she will get it. You can even change the beneficiary to another family member.
     Keep in mind, though, that your 529 plan will be counted on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), although schools typically only consider up to 5.6% of parental assets when calculating financial aid. And distributions from a parent-owned 529 account used for one year’s college expenses will not usually reduce next year’s financial aid eligibility. (For more information on how a 529 plan might affect your child’s financial assistance, you may want to consult with a college’s financial aid office.)
     If you can find a 529 Day event in your area, you may want to attend so that you can learn more about the many aspects of saving for college. But even if you can’t personally take part in 529 Day, give some thought to a 529 plan – it might be part of the solution for helping your children earn a relatively debt-free degree.
     This article was written by Edward Jones for use by the local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.
     PUBLISHER'S NOTE: This article was written by Edward Jones for use by the local Edward Jones Financial Advisor -- Kathryn Lancaster, 220-2 N. Main St., in Chiefland.


 

Region’s jobless rate
drops below 5 percent

By Laura Byrnes, APR, CPRC
Communications Manager
CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion
Published May 19, 2017 at 1:07 p.m.
on the Business Page of HardisonInk.com
     OCALA –
The unemployment rate for the CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion region was 4.8 percent in April, down half a percentage point over the month and 0.8 percent lower than the same time last year.

     It is also the first time since the slow slog of economic recovery began that joblessness dropped below 5 percent for the area.
     Out of a labor force of 200,630, which tightened by 914 over the month, there were 9,730 unemployed, a drop of 917 since March and 1,278 fewer than April 2016. While the number of employed remained virtually unchanged in the region – inching up by three over the month to 190,900 – that represents 5,684 more employed than a year ago when the unemployment rate was 5.6 percent.
     According to today’s (Friday, May 19) employment summary by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), Levy County continued to post the lowest jobless rate in the region dropping from 4.6 to 4.2 percent (the last time it was at 4.2 percent was January 2007); followed by Marion County which was 4.7 percent, down over the month from 5.1 percent, the lowest it has been since June 2007); and posting its lowest rate since October 2007, Citrus County came in at 5.5 percent rate, dropping from 6.0 percent. Florida’s not seasonally adjusted rate was 4.0 percent, down over the month from 4.4 percent; and the nation’s rate was 4.1 percent, down from 4.6 percent.
     For the fourth consecutive month, the Ocala metropolitan statistical area (MSA) continued to hold the fastest annual job growth rate compared to all metros in Florida in professional and business services, at 9.7 percent. The Ocala MSA had the third fastest job growth rate in mining, logging and construction at 10.4 percent.
     Rusty Skinner, chief executive officer for CareerSource CLM, noted that modest employment gains in Levy and Marion counties offset slight losses in Citrus County, while unemployment continued to drop in all three counties.
     “I won’t call this report ‘lukewarm’ because there are lots of positives in it and we are certainly moving in the right direction,” Skinner said. “But what we also see is that the dip in the labor force is more a reflection of fewer people out of work than a robust increase in employment.” 
     Skinner noted that five years ago, the region’s unemployment rate was 9.6 percent – the first time it had hit single digits since November 2008. At that time, there were 19,495 people out of work and employment was 183,512 or 17,118 fewer than April 2016.
     “It’s important to keep things in perspective,” he said. “That said, we’re going to continue to work with business, economic and education partners to help ensure that everyone who wants a job can get one here in our communities or within a reasonable commute of our area.”
     DEO’s preliminary data for the area’s three counties shows that in April, Citrus County's labor force contracted over the month by 393 to 47,758, the number of employed fell by 155 to 45,120, and the number of those without jobs also fell by 238 to 2,638. That is 241 more employed and 414 fewer unemployed since April 2016 when the jobless rate was 6.4 percent. 
     Levy County's labor force shrank by 55 to 16,889, the number of employed increased by four to 16,175 and the number of unemployed dropped by 59 to 714. That’s 428 more employed and 86 fewer unemployed than a year ago when the jobless rate was 4.8 percent. 
     Marion County’s labor force decreased by 466 to 135,983, the number of employed increased by 154 to 129,605 and the number of jobless decreased by 620 to 6,378. Compared to April 2016 when the unemployment rate was 5.4 percent, that reflects an increase in employment of 5,015 and 778 fewer unemployed. 
     Among the counties, Citrus County continued to hold the third highest rate behind Sumter County at 5.7 percent and Hendry County at 6 percent; Marion County held at 11th; and Levy County was 24th.
     The Villages MSA continued to post the highest rate among the states metros at 5.7 percent, Homosassa Springs (Citrus County) was second and Ocala was fifth. 
     The Ocala metro posted 103,500 nonfarm jobs in April, an increase of 2,600 new jobs for a 2.6 percent growth rate over the year. That narrowly outpaced the state average job growth rate of 2.5 percent and tied with West Palm Beach and Tampa for the 10th strongest job growth rate among all Florida metros. Neighboring metro areas of The Villages and Gainesville posted the second and third fastest growth rates at 4.4 percent and 3.9 percent.
     Industries gaining jobs over the year were professional and business services (+900); trade, transportation and utilities (+700 jobs); mining, logging and construction (+500); education and health services (+400); manufacturing (+200); and other services (+100); and other services (+100).
     In addition to professional and business services job rate growth of 9.7 percent, other industries that grew faster in the Ocala metro area than statewide over the year were mining, logging and construction (+7.2 percent); and trade, transportation and utilities (+3.1 percent).
     Information and financial activities each lost 100 jobs over the year. Leisure and hospitality and government industries were unchanged.
     The Homosassa Springs MSA had 33,500 nonfarm jobs in April, the same as the
previous month but a decrease of 200 (-0.6 percent) over the year.  
     The May employment report is scheduled to be released on Friday, June 16.


Joyce Brancato is reappointed
to the College of Central Florida
District Board of Trustees


Joyce Brancato of Inglis

Published May 16, 2016 at 3:17 p.m.
on the Business Page of HardisonInk.com
     OCALA --
Florida Gov. Rick Scott has reappointed Joyce Brancato to the College of Central Florida District Board of Trustees. She will represent Levy County for a term beginning May 12, 2017, and ending May 31, 2018.

     Brancato, 57, of Inglis, is an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Maryland University College. She recently retired as CEO of Seven Rivers Regional Medical Center in Crystal River, where she had been employed for 30 years. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of South Florida and her master’s degree from Nova Southeastern University.
     “Ms. Brancato has served the College of Central Florida since June 2011 and is dedicated to serving our students and community,” said Dr. Jim Henningsen, CF president. “Her expertise in the healthcare field has been a great asset.”
     The CF District Board of Trustees is comprised of seven members.
     Joining Brancato as a Levy County representative on the Board is Robert Durrance, also from Levy County; and Don Taylor and Sandra L. Balfour from Citrus County; and Rusty Branson, Bill Edgar and Ron Ewers from Marion County.


Dixie County Chamber
membership growth continues


Bev Pivacek of the Putnam Lodge -
Hotel And Spa of Dixie County, And Dixie Paintball holds up a paper image of what two signs will look like on the northern and southern entrance to Dixie County on U.S. Highway 19. The Dixie County Chamber of Commerce has signs at these locations, and the new signs will replace the old ones.

Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © May 13, 2017 at 8:47 p.m.
     DIXIE COUNTY --
The Dixie County Chamber of Commerce is showing a big number of members, Chamber Co-Vice President Arthur Bellot said during his time to speak Thursday (May 11) during the monthly meeting of the Chamber.
     There are now 101 members, Vice President Bellot said.

     As in any organization, though, there are members and then there are active members who volunteer to get things done. Bellot said he would like to see some people volunteer beyond the small core that exists now.
     "It's not about numbers," Bellot said. "It's about participation. It's about getting things done."
     As he said that, Bellot added that the members present for the luncheon might or might not know but "We've got quite a spark plug right up there in that yellow shirt.
     "She (Chamber President Carol West) will build a fire under you," he continued. "If y'all are not aware, this lady works in this just like it's a job."
     He said that at any time during the day or night, President West has her Chamber hat on, and she is usually going to, or coming from, some Chamber event.


Dixie County Chamber of Commerce President Carol West

     Vice President Bellot then showed the new decals that have been made for members of the Dixie County Chamber of Commerce. The decals say "Dixie County Chamber of Commerce - A great place to Live, Work and Play!" The decals show the company or person is a 2017 member. It also shows the website address for the chamber www.dixiechamber.org.


Here Vice President Arthur Bellot shows the Dixie County Chamber of Commerce decal. Sitting near him is Jackson Waldron who celebrated his 18th birthday at the Chamber meeting. Waldron is among the workers at the Cross City Airport. He was among the people who enjoyed a chance to ride in one of the aerobatic airplanes during the most recent Chamber Expo and Cross City Airport Fly-In. Click HERE  for the story about the Expo and Fly-in. Click HERE for the archived story about the acrobatic pilots.
~  
     There were at least 45 young people who enjoyed airplane flights that day, Chamber Board of Directors Member Jeff Cary said. He said one goal of the day was to give more people chances to fly.
     Past Chamber President Debbie DeWeese said she enjoyed a chance to fly in a plane that day. Drew Ballensky was the winner of a flight in one of the aerobatic airplanes.
     Ballensky said going upside down and diving toward the ground before pulling up was thrilling. He enjoyed the ride. He said this experience is much more intense than a roller-coaster ride.
     The monthly meeting was in the conference room-kitchen-dining area of the Dixie County Public Library in Cross City. Lunch was provided by Taste of Dixie Diner. It was delicious, hot fried chicken, green beans, potatoes and an outstanding peach cobbler.
     Members and guests of the May 11 meeting of the Dixie County Chamber of Commerce learned there are a few big projects that show promise in the near future, including potential uses of the abandoned former Georgia-Pacific property.
     The program of the day was presented by Sandra Woodard, the public relations manager for the Early Learning Coalition of the Nature Coast. This coalition covers Dixie, Levy, Gilchrist, Citrus and Sumter counties.
     While Chamber members are thinking about jobs-jobs-jobs, Woodard reminds them to think about pre-schools and schools-schools-schools. Employees need good schools for their young children while they are at work, she said.
     The Early Learning Coalition of the Nature Coast offers many services. For more information about this group, please check out its website at http://www.elc-naturecoast.org/index.php.
     The next meeting of the Dixie County Chamber of Commerce is scheduled to be at the public library in Cross City at noon on June 8.
     Also on June 8, there is a big meeting in the Dixie County Courthouse from 6 to 8 p.m. with the Florida Chamber Foundation 2030.
     Florida Project 2030 is a research project where all 67 counties are scheduled to have Chambers provide input at interactive town hall meetings.


Levy County delinquent tax list
advertisement is published

By Jeff M. Hardison © May 12, 2017 at 12:07 a.m.
     LEVY COUNTY –
As promised, Levy County Tax Collector Linda Fugate provided the link to her office’s website so that a display ad on all seven pages of HardisonInk.com could be used to attract more buyers.

     “I am very happy to see this ad at work,” HardisonInk.com owner Jeff M. Hardison said. “I clicked on the ad and went to the site. Once there, I could click on various underlined words and find everything I needed.”
     The publisher said he hopes this set of ads, one on each of the seven pages, brings in at least one extra buyer who purchases $150 worth of delinquent property tax certificates (the cost of the ad on seven pages for three weeks).
     “My first plan was to create an extra webpage on the HardisonInk.com site,” Hardison said. “Thanks to Tax Collector Fugate, I found a much more efficient method.”
     Hardison said there is a monopoly on qualified newsprint bidders for this advertisement. Only one bidder existed for this job this year in this county. And that newspaper is not 100 percent local.
     The Chiefland Citizen is part of the chain owned by Florida Newspapers LLC (whose sole stockholder is Landmark Community Newspapers LLC of Shelbyville, Kentucky). The newspaper is published in Citrus County and is shipped to Levy County via trucks from one of the daily newspapers in that county.
     Jeff Hardison sole proprietor of HardisonInk.com, a Florida native, and a Levy County resident and taxpayer, submitted an offer to publish only the delinquent tax list and then to have a link instead to the Levy County Tax Collector's website.
     HardisonInk.com is a 7-year-old daily news website that serves North Central Florida, and beyond. It has averaged in excess of one million hits a month for the past two years, and has had an average of 16,000 unique visitors each month in 2017.
     Hardison is a multiple award-winning writer and editor who served as a reporter, business writer, bureau chief, managing editor, editor and executive editor for Florida weekly and daily newspapers.
     He graduated from the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications in 1984.
     He earned his first investigative reporting award from the Florida Press Association in 1983 when he wrote a series of stories, which revealed a Hamilton County commissioner had used public funds for private gain.
     His most recent FPA award for investigative reporting was in 2007 after he wrote a series of stories about alleged voter fraud in Chiefland city elections.
     Between those two points, the FPA honored him for winning in the following other classifications: Best Full Use of Color; Environmental or Conservation; Community Service; and Front Page Layout.
     The Florida Press Club honored him for his work when it awarded him in the category of Best Public Service.
     Hardison also taught children and adults (including teachers) English, English for Speakers of Other Languages and journalists for five years after taking post-graduate classes at the University of South Florida and Manatee Community College.
     He taught at Eckerd College (St. Petersburg); Lemon Bay High School (Englewood); the New World Language Institute (Bradenton); and Admiral Farragut Academy (St. Petersburg).
     He began his writing career in high school at Northeast High School in St. Petersburg, where he was an editorial writer; editorial editor; and poetry editor of the Literary Edition of the Nor’easter.
     Hardison completed a newswriting and editing course at Modern Media Institute (now known as Poynter Institute for Media Studies) in the summer of 1977, before returning to St. Petersburg Jr. College, where he was the news editor for The Wooden Horse – before transferring to U.F.
     While at U.F., he was a stringer for The Independent Florida Alligator, the High Springs Herald and other publications.
     After college, Hardison worked at daily and weekly newspapers in the following Florida counties: Hamilton, Madison, Suwannee, Lafayette, Collier, Pinellas, Indian River, Brevard, Sumter, Glades, Hendry, Okeechobee, Highlands, Charlotte, Sarasota, Lee, Levy, Columbia, Dixie and Gilchrist.
     His stories, photos and videos continue influencing public policymakers as well as keeping readers, viewers and listeners informed, educated and entertained about the events and people in North Central Florida and beyond.
     “I have enjoyed writing stories that were part of bringing about positive change,” he said. “One of my favorite series was when Bob Butterworth was the attorney general of Florida. I covered Fisheating Creek first and best. I was the first journalist to ride in a canoe from the headwaters through land on either side owned by Lykes Brothers Corp. And we camped on the banks one night on property owned by a person friendly to the mission of proving sovereign property rights for the people of Florida.”
     Now as the owner and publisher of a daily news website, Hardison sees a method to offer the opportunity for more people to invest in Levy County via the delinquent property tax procedure.
     “I don’t own an offset web press,” Hardison said after the meeting. “I don’t see that as being the thing to buy nowadays, even if the Florida Legislature thinks there is some great need to hang on to that tradition.
     “There can be a method to let every person see the list on a government website by people who use the public libraries,” Hardison added. “This subsidizing of paper-based media by the government paying to buy ads to list delinquent taxpayers is not required logistically to make that information available to the people, although the Florida Statutes still require it.”
~~~

Investing in
delinquent tax certificates
is a relatively safe bet

By Jeff M. Hardison
First Published March 1, 2017
     BRONSON –
There is some degree of risk with investing money into anything.
     Buying delinquent tax certificates is a relatively safe investment, and it can yield between 5 and 18 percent interest, depending on the winning bid.
     Property taxpayers in all 67 counties are given opportunities to pay their ad valorem property taxes and save a certain percentage.
     Even beyond the chance for that practice, when a property owner fails to pay their taxes on time, there is a chance to pay late taxes. And there are investors who can see a profit from buying delinquent tax certificates.
     A recent discussion with Levy County Tax Collector Linda Fugate provided insight into delinquent tax certificates.
     Property owners are given tax bills in November, Fugate said. There is a discount for real estate taxes paid before April 1. That discount drops as the time goes by from November until April 1.
     The discount is 4 percent, then 3 percent, then 1 percent and for the person who waits until March to pay their property tax, there is a zero percent reduction.
     All unpaid real estate taxes become delinquent on April 1 each year, with a 3 percent penalty added to the taxes.
     In the month of May the delinquent taxes are advertised in the local newspaper once a week for three consecutive weeks before the tax certificate sale is held following the payment deadline.
     The dates for the weekly Chiefland Citizen to runs the delinquent property tax list are May 11, 18 and 25.
     The advertising cost and associated tax sale fees are added to the amount of the tax bill due during this time.
     On or before June 1, Tax Collector Fugate, and the other 66 county tax collectors in Florida must hold a tax certificate sale, to auction off tax sale certificates.
     A delinquent tax certificate is a lien on property created by payment of the delinquent taxes due.
     It is not a purchase of property. And, Fugate added, the person who holds the certificate has no special privilege if it comes to the point where that property is sold on the courthouse steps, which is something that can happen later.
     Back to the delinquent tax certificates, Florida Statutes require the tax collector to conduct a sale of tax certificates beginning on or before June 1 for the preceding year of delinquent real estate taxes. 
     The amount of the tax certificate is the sum of the unpaid real estate taxes and the non-ad valorem assessments, and the 3 percent penalty, and the advertising costs and the tax sale fees.
     The county uses an Online Tax Sale process using proxy bids placed by its bidders.
     Tax Sale bids can be input online starting the first day the advertising list is published in the newspaper.
     Bidding continues until midnight of the night before the Tax Sale awarding (also known as the Tax Sale date).
     On the day of the tax sale, the system awards the certificates to the lowest bidder.
     Certificate bidding begins at an 18 percent interest rate and is bid down at one-quarter of 1 percent increments until the certificate is sold to the lowest bidder.
     Fugate said a person could bid as low as one-quarter of 1 percent. However, the least amount that any bidder will make on the repayment of this delinquent tax certificate is 5 percent.   
     Tax certificates on land which has been granted a homestead exemption for the year in which the delinquent taxes were assessed and which have a face value of less than $250 shall not be sold to the public at a tax certificate sale.
     These certificates are issued to the county and shall bear Interest at 18% Interest per year.
      Once the face value and accrued Interest exceed $250, these certificates may be sold to an individual by the county.    
     Tax Certificates are kept as an electronic file within the Tax Collector's Office. A listing of certificates awarded and held is provided to each buyer after the tax sale.
     Simple interest accrues on the certificate on a monthly basis (not daily), starting on June 1 for those certificates awarded to bidders during the tax sale process.
    Interest is accrued at the rate of the winning bid.
    When a tax certificate is redeemed (paid by the property owner), the certificate holder will receive the amount of his or her investment (certificate face amount) plus the interest accrued up to the date of redemption.
     Fugate reminds possible bidders that if the tax certificate interest amount earned on the face amount is less than 5 percent, then a minimum of a 5 percent interest amount is paid to the holder of the redeemed (paid) certificate.
    However, if a certificate is awarded at the tax sale as a 0 percent bid, it earns no interest and there is no 5 percent minimum interest amount paid to the certificate hold upon its redemption.
     Tax Certificates are dated as of the first day of the tax certificate sale and expire after seven years.
   Any tax certificate can be cancelled or reduced if errors, omissions, or double assessments are made. 
     Any certificate not sold during the tax sale, will be awarded and held by the county, as a County Certificate, accruing interest at 18 percent.
    Individuals can purchase these County Held Certificates from the county by contacting the Tax Collectors Office.
     If or when the property owner pays the delinquent taxes, the interest is calculated and a check is distributed to the certificate holder.
     Certificate holders can file for a Tax Deed Application with the tax collector any time after two years have elapsed from the date of delinquency (April 1) for any unpaid certificates but no longer than seven years.
     This process starts the foreclosure of the property.
     To foreclose the property, the certificate holder making application for a tax deed has to pay the Tax Collector an application fee, a title search fee and all amounts required for redemption or purchase of all other outstanding tax certificates, interest, omitted taxes, and delinquent taxes as well as applicable Clerk of Circuit Court fees, relating to the real estate.
    In most cases, the property is scheduled to go to sale at public auction by the Clerk of Circuit Court within three to four months from the date of the tax deed application.
     Fugate reminds prospective buyers that holding the certificate creates no advantage toward owning the property. The highest bidder becomes the owner of the property.
     If the property is a non-homesteaded parcel, the opening bid is the amount of the taxes, accrued interest, plus costs and fees involved in a tax deed application. If it is a homesteaded property, the opening bid is half the assessed value plus the tax certificate face value and costs.
     If the property does not sell, the tax certificate holder is required to take deed to the property.   
      Information provided in this story is not intended for any purposes other than for a general understanding of the process.
     For specific and the legal description of this process, refer to Chapter 197 of the Florida Statutes, and call the Levy County Tax Collector's Office for the finer points.
     Also, as a general rule, always conduct thorough research before buying any real property.

--UPDATED--
FRIDAY  May 26  7:47 a.m.
Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties



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