By LISA M. REED
QUINNESEC - Since the tax tribunal ruled in favor of lowering the taxable value of the Home Depot store in Breitung Township and the Lowe's Store in Marquette Township, state legislators and other authorities are getting involved to discuss the implications of these rulings.
Breitung Township's Home Depot store appealed the assessed value as set by the township for 2009, 2010 and 2011.
Closser & Associates of Marquette did an independent appraisal of the Home Depot store, and their assessment mirrored the township's tax appraisal for the years under appeal.
A trial held in September 2012 with the tribunal issued the following as their decision: 2009 taxable value from $2,933,400 to $1,450,000; 2010 from $2,914,629 to $1,330,000; and 2011 from $2,925,100 to $1,187,500.
The decision causes a refund in taxes in the amount of $225,193.66 plus interest.
A similar decision was ruled for the Lowe's store in Marquette Township.
Township Superintendent Joe Rogina said any refund due has been placed on hold as the township has appealed the case into the Michigan Court of Appeals. The case is consolidated with that of Marquette Township's Lowe store, which could take two years to be heard.
Rogina said at issue is the fact that the tribunal is making its decision based on a theory brought about by store's appraiser. Buildings have to be appraised as though vacant and could only be sold or leased for an alternative use rendering the building as having a diminutive value.
"If this trend is allowed to continue and enough of these cases are settled in this manner, then the burden of government is passed onto the residential taxpayer," Rogina said.
Implications of these decisions will be discussed by legislatures, the Michigan Township Association, Michigan Municipal League, Michigan Association of Counties, Michigan Education and others.
Michigan State Senator Tom Casperson of the 38th District said he is very concerned about how these big retailers are seemingly exploiting the law for their own gain at the expense of local stakeholders.
"Assessing commercial property in the manner that the retailers are arguing is not only unreasonable, but it is unfair to our local communities, especially to the local governments," he said. "This truly is a troubling practice that has far-reaching and long-lasting consequences not just to communities in the U.P. but throughout the state. So, I am now working with some colleagues to determine how we can we can rectify this self-serving practice legislatively, and ensure that our communities are protected from such actions going forward."
The offices of State Rep. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, and State Rep. John Kivela, D-Marquette, are also investigating the issue.
State Rep. John Kivela, D-Marquette, said he is looking closely into the situation and strongly considering legislative action.
Attorney William Fahey - of the Fahey, Schultz, Burzych, Rhoades law firm in downstate Okemos - is representing Breitung and Marquette townships.
These cases are pending across the state of Michigan involving almost every "big box" store.
A separate appeal is pending for 2012, and the 2013 assessment may also be appealed for the Home Depot store in Breitung Township.
Lisa M. Reed's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.