Commissioner wants to move leased Orange Co. offices to save money

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The Orange County Property Appraiser and Tax Collector offices are housed in the downtown Orlando SunTrust building, but a county commissioner has proposed moving the offices since it costs taxpayers more than $1 million a year to rent.

WFTV learned the county has been leasing space in the SunTrust building for 17 years.

The leases are paid year after year with no return on investment, but Commissioner Scott Boyd now wants to find a better, more efficient use of taxpayer money.

WFTV learned millions of Orange County taxpayer dollars were being spent on leased county office space, including 20,000 square feet at the Fashion Square Mall, the space inside the downtown Orlando office building and a $100,000 per month luxury office on the top of an Orlando sky rise.

"The story that got brought up shed some light on some spaces that could be available and really be a bit more efficient," said Boyd.

Boyd said it's time to reevaluate county space and look into real estate options that could save taxpayer dollars.

Boyd raised the issue with other county leaders on Tuesday.

"Property Appraiser-elect Rick Singh had made the comment the rent paid there is out of the ordinary," said Boyd.

Other county commissioners agreed with Boyd. They're now looking at possibly constructing a new building on county-owned land, or leasing other property or even taking over empty retail space and converting it.

"In the long term, probably owning a piece of property with surface parking would function very well," said Director of Administrative Services John Terwilliger.

Combined, Orange County taxpayers are paying more than $8 million a year for leased space.

"This isn't the first time that we've heard this, but at the same time we've had long-term leases have been in place, but one of the things we're not going to do is come in and break the lease," Boyd said.

Boyd said some major leases, including the property appraiser's office at the top of the SunTrust building, are up in the next two years.

Under state law, the main location for a county office must be in Orlando city limits, so that may make the search a little more complicated. But administrators plan to have a list of properties by March that the board will consider.