Florida

Sales taxes from Mall at UTC stores went to Manatee. The problem? The mall is in Sarasota

The Mall at UTC.
The Mall at UTC. Bradenton Herald file photo

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story should have stated that the sales taxes are paid by stores at the Mall of University Town Center.

Manatee County Commissioners adopted a proposed property tax millage rate to fund a nearly $1.4 billion budget Tuesday, but there is a complication.

The Florida Department of Revenue has notified the county it has been erroneously receiving sales tax revenue paid by stores at the Mall at University Town Center in Sarasota County.

Ed Hunzeker, Manatee County administrator, advised county commissioners Tuesday that the error will likely have an impact on the budget.

It’s estimated that the error, made over the past three or four years, amounts to about $4 million, County Commissioner Carol Whitmore said.

“They, and they alone, made an error on the calculation,” Whitmore said of the state. “The money they paid us should have gone to Sarasota County.”

It’s the first time Manatee has seen Sarasota revenue coming this way, Hunzeker said, referring to a past problem of businesses operating in Manatee County with Sarasota zip codes sending their sales tax revenues to Sarasota County.

The Department of Revenue advised Hunzeker of the problem in a phone call last Thursday, and then followed up with an email referencing the phone call.

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Shoppers filled The Mall at UTC the day after Christmas, a typically heavy day for retail. Sales tax revenues from the Mall at University Town Center have been erroneously paid to Manatee County, the Florida Department of Revenue has advised. Those revenues should have gone to Sarasota County. Bradenton Herald file photo

“We will have to sort through the data once they send it to us to determine the implications to this budget and future budgets,” Hunzeker said.

Tuesday, county commissioners approved a countywide operating millage of 6.4326, the same as the adopted fiscal 2018 budget.

In addition, residents living in unincorporated Manatee County would pay an another 0.6109 mills. Residents of Palm-Aire would pay both the 6.4326 and .6109 millage, as well as a tax of .2546 for their municipal service taxing unit.

A mill represents a tax of $1 for every $1,000 of a property’s assessed value.

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Lights illuminate the tower and main entrance of The Mall at University Town Center at night. Sales tax revenues from the Mall at University Town Center have been erroneously paid to Manatee County, the Florida Department of Revenue has advised. Those revenues should have gone to Sarasota County. Bradenton Herald file photo

County Commissioner Betsy Benac said the millage rates set Tuesday are the maximum possible. The county can keep the millage the same or reduce it in future budget meetings but cannot increase it.

Manatee County government will hold public hearings to finalize the budget at 6 p.m. Sept. 11 and Sept. 18 in Manatee County Administration Building, 1112 Manatee Avenue W.

The public will have an opportunity to voice their views about the budget at the hearings.

Groundbreaking for the Mall at UTC, located south of University Parkway and west of Interstate 75 was on Oct. 15, 2012, and the grand opening was on Oct. 16, 2014.

The mall cost an estimated $315 million and contains approximately 880,000-square-feet of retail space.

“The shopping center has always paid its property taxes to Sarasota County,” said mall general manager Jeramy Burkinshaw on Wednesday. “Tenants, which operate independently from the mall, pay business and sales tax to the Florida Department of Revenue and those filings are done by each tenant individually.”

In an unrelated matter, County Commissioner Robin DiSabatino discussed the 185-foot public safety radio tower proposed for Prospect Road. Residential neighbors have strongly opposed the location of the tower so close to their homes.

DiSabatino asked if county staff has any alternatives they could suggest for the tower.

Opponents of the tower are expected to bring their concerns to the county commission’s 9 a.m. Thursday land-use meeting.

The Mall at University Town Center in Sarasota celebrated one year this week.

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