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A reporter asked why a building wasn’t on the tax rolls. Now the one next door is.

The relocation of Fort Lauderdale’s police department to a building off Cypress Creek Road had unintended consequences for the building next door.

It’s now going back on the tax rolls after not getting a property tax bill for years.

How did that happen?

The South Florida Sun Sentinel played a role when one of its reporters asked why one of the buildings wasn’t getting billed.

Kaplan University once occupied two buildings, one at 1515 and the other at 1525 W. Cypress Creek Road. Both buildings sit on land owned by the city of Fort Lauderdale.

Fort Lauderdale’s police department moved into the 1515 building in September and will remain there until a new $140 million headquarters opens. The station, expected to open in 2025, is being built near the old headquarters on Broward Boulevard in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

Broward County Property Appraiser Marty Kiar began looking into whether taxes were owed on both buildings after getting a call from the Sun Sentinel last August inquiring about their tax history.

The 1515 building was put on the tax rolls in 2004, but had not gotten a tax bill since 2010, the Sun Sentinel learned after checking the Property Appraiser website.

Kiar initially told the Sun Sentinel he had no idea why the bills had stopped.

“Our office was under the impression this was only municipal property used for municipal purposes,” Kiar said at the time. “We didn’t know otherwise until (the Sun Sentinel) called. We were never provided with any of the leases. If it does turn out there is money owed, that has to be paid.”

After months of research by Kiar’s legal team, he finally has the answer.

The 1515 building can retain its tax-exempt status because it’s being used for a public purpose. That’s good news for Fort Lauderdale. If not, the city would have faced future taxes for as long as the police department remains in the building.

The second building, located next door at 1525 Cypress Creek Road, is going back on the tax rolls because a healthcare company moved in a few years ago.

The 1525 building should have gone back on the tax rolls in 2022 because it was subleased to Envision Healthcare, said Mila Schwartzreich, general counsel for the Property Appraiser’s Office.

The back taxes owed from 2022 come to $304,258.45, Schwartzreich said. That bill is due at the end of February.

“They did appeal to the (county’s) Value Adjustment Board,” Schwartzreich said of Kaplan’s attorneys. “For our purposes, we were very firm. This is what’s owed.”

For 2023, the current tax year, the taxes come to $371,437.05. That bill is due March 31.

Martin Press, the attorney for Kaplan University, says the Property Appraiser’s Office has sent a bill for back taxes for 2022.

“All I can tell is that’s where we are at the moment,” Press said. “The bill is due at the end of this month.”

Who will pay the taxes?

Press said he didn’t know.

One thing’s for sure, it won’t be the city, Commissioner John Herbst says.

“The city would not owe the taxes,” Herbst said. “We own the land, not the building. At the end of their lease (in 2073), we’ll own the building.”

Leaseholder Sheldon Gross could not be reached for comment despite three calls and two texts over the course of several days.

Gross bought the lease in 2019.

Construction got underway on the new police headquarters in July 2023.

Soon after, the agency’s 750 employees abandoned their old headquarters due to the ear-splitting construction noise next door. That’s when the hunt began for new space.

As a subtenant of the 1515 building, the City Commission had agreed to pay taxes on the building in the event it went back on the tax rolls.

Gross initially told Fort Lauderdale commissioners the taxpayers would have to pay 48% of the tax bill if the building lost its tax-exempt status.

Mayor Dean Trantalis, negotiating from the dais, got that down to 36%.

The city’s portion of the tax bill would have been close to $130,000.

Herbst says he pushed for the police department to move to the Kaplan building because it was offering less expensive space than downtown.

The rent for the first two years will cost taxpayers around $3 million.

Susannah Bryan can be reached at moc.lenitnesnus@nayrbs. Follow me on X @Susannah_Bryan

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