City of Escanaba hires consultant

ESCANABA – Escanaba recently hired a consultant experienced in tax tribunal hearings as the city prepares to defend itself against the Menards store which does not agree with its 2014 property assessment.

Escanaba City Assessor Daina Norden recommended hiring Miles Anderson, a licensed appraiser and assessor from Escanaba, to assist the city at an upcoming tax tribunal trial. Council approved the appointment at its regular meeting Thursday.

Anderson was hired for an amount not to exceed $11,000 based on an hourly rate. If the tribunal judge does not rule in the city’s favor, Escanaba could lose an estimated $40,000 per year in tax revenue, Norden said, explaining the need for an expert in the field.

“I have been working diligently to try and get this matter resolved before we go to trial, however, I have been unsuccessful at this point,” she told council.

Norden added she will continue to work to negotiate a reasonable valuation for the store prior to the trial date, expected later this summer.

Menard Inc., the petitioner, currently appraises the local store at $3.4 million for the building, outbuildings, parking lot, and 18.35 acres of land. The city appraised the property at $8,455,422 in 2014.

Norden said Menard based its true cash value on eight other sales which she says are “unsuitable” and not comparable to the local store.

“I am confident that the valuation that they are seeking is incorrect based on their own appraisal,” Norden stated in background information for council.

“I feel we need to stand up for the correct valuation of this property and we should not accept their low value simply because they have an appraisal,” she added.

According to the tax tribunal petition filed by Menard’s attorney in May, Menard is seeking to have its tax assessment lowered because the city’s assessment violates statutory and constitutional limitations, is unlawful and based on wrong principles, and is higher than the average assessment level within the district.

Menard is among “big box” retailers – including Lowes and Home Depot – which have been appealing their property tax assessments to the Michigan Tax Tribunal by challenging the “true cash value” of their properties.

According to the Michigan Association of Counties’ (MAC) website, the MAC contends in the majority of these cases, “the valuation methods being put forth equate the value of a vibrant, profitable operating business with a closed, dark, and abandoned commercial property.”

The website also states. “MAC is working very closely with members of the House and Senate to find a fair, equitable and consistent way to value these properties so that each business actually pays their share of property taxes.”

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Jenny Lancour, (906) 786-2021, ext. 143, jlancour@dailypress.net