HOUGHTON, Mich., (WJMN) – According to City Manager Eric Waara, Walmart first requested a lower taxable value in 2018, they are still requesting a revaluing of the store but also want to be refunded part of their paid taxes from the past 2 years.
We reached out to Walmart for information on their tax appeal twice, but they did not provide a response. Waara says they are requesting their value be lowered by around $10 per square foot.
“With where they’re at right now their value is about 49 dollars per square foot,” said Waara. “I believe their last offer they gave us was somewhere around 32 or 33 dollars per square foot which is a considerable loss and when you get down to numbers, in a year’s time that’s well over 100000 dollars.”
When the store initially filed for a lower taxable value, Houghton had just gone through severe flooding. Waara says they delayed the appeal because of the flooding, but now want what they’ve paid in taxes back.
“Initially they had filed this appeal in 2018 and it was kind of ironic and an extra kick in the shins so to speak because we just had the father’s day flood and here comes this petition wanting their taxable value lowered,” said Waara. “So we worked with them at the time cause you know, I mean we had millions of dollars worth of infrastructure damage in town so they agreed to put it in abeyance.”
Ed McBroom represents the 38th district in the Michigan Senate, he says the Michigan Tax Tribunal has a history of ruling in favor of the stores in these situations. McBroom put out a statement about a recent re-appointment of one member of the tribunal, in particular, calling for a hearing on the appointment.
“I’m very concerned, I think that this history on this decision is very troubling and deserves a really in depth look,” said McBroom. “If she’s not going to say, you know, give us a good reason why she’s stuck with this, why they didn’t listen to the court of appeals then I’m going to be probably asking the governor to repeal the appointment or asking my senate colleagues to turn it down.”
Mcbroom says current Michigan Law allows for stores to appeal their tax rate using a comparable building to re-assess their value. He says that since there aren’t a lot of other big box stores to compare to, sometimes these stores will look to other parts of the state, potentially at an unused building for a comparable value.
“We’ve been arguing all along, that’s not a fair comparable because how would you compare a store that’s in an economically vibrant area, a store that’s certainly not dilapidated with one that is and is in an area where there is no economic activity going on,” said McBroom.
Waara says they have the Walmart in Houghton valued at the average for a similar store in Wisconsin.