The City of Escanaba is getting some help in its on-going battle in the “dark store” tax issue. The Michigan Department of Treasury has agreed to help the city in its effort to stop big box stores from having their deed-restricted buildings valued as vacant…or dark…resulting in lower property taxes.
Escanaba City Manager Patrick Jordan tells the Radio Results Network that word came this morning that Treasury will not contribute to the legal defense fund, but will pay up to $200,000 for “experts” to help Escanaba in the battle.
“That’s good because now that that’s happening, we can go to the local municipalities, cities, counties, villages, townships, everybody,” Jordan said, “through their associations, the MML (Michigan Municipal League), the MAC (Michigan Association of Counties), and the MTA (Michigan Townships Association), and ask them, basically, write us a check. Send some money in. Because I’ve let them know, we’re all in this fight together.”
Jordan argues that local services are negatively impacted when cities lose revenue when big box stores are able to get their taxes reduced.
108th District State Representative Beau LaFave says, “I’m really glad the Treasury Department has signed on to make sure that we have the expert so we need to win this case. The fact is that whenever the stores come to fruition in the state has to backfill the school district so it’s not just a local issue this affects not only are local communities but it also affects the entire state of Michigan budget. So, a rather small investment of $200,000 but it could have far-reaching implications.”
The City of Escanaba won a legal battle when the Michigan Supreme Court denied an appeal by Menard’s. The court told the Michigan Tax Tribunal to reassess the way it is interpreting the state’s tax laws when it comes to these “dark store” cases.
LaFave added, “I mean, I understand that Menard’s wants to lower their taxes…I want to lower everybody’s taxes. But, I think it’s my job as a state representative to make sure that everyone pays what the law says on taxes and there aren’t special carve-outs for big box stores.”