Friday, July 15, 2016
The Gazette Demanded a Lower Tax Bill. Now Janesville Gets To Pay The Price
Not too long ago, the Janesville Gazette posted an exclusive article about how some Janesville area big box retailers and other businesses are putting the squeeze on Janesville taxpayers by using a "dark store" argument to win substantially lower property tax bills.
The Gazette identified eight businesses that applied for lower tax assessments against the city in recent years: Blain Supply, Farm & Fleet, Target, U.S. Bank, Menards, Sears, Rosebud Partners (for Wildwood Theaters) and Jade Taco (for Taco John's). Some received settlements while others won lower property assessed values, refunds or both.
The Gazette followed up with an editorial on the story where they concluded that absent changes in state law, and as lower assessments and settlements continue, homeowners should expect to pick up bigger shares of the tax burden. They are absolutely correct in that summation.
But who knew that at the time of their story in March, the Gazette's parent label, Bliss Communications, hired a tax lawyer to, as lawyers are described in their editorial about the retailers, to "prey on the city" by filing an objection to their own property tax?
According to a city memorandum (File Resolution No. 2016-1333) from this week's council meeting, Bliss Communications lawyered a "settlement" with the state by having $576,000 of assessed value knocked off its property on Parker Drive. The difference in value from the previous assessment translates to a $30,000 lower annual tax bill for the media company.
Bliss also had the assessed value for their facility on Wuthering Hills lowered by $709,500. That tax bill will be lowered by $35,000 for a combined difference of about $65,000 less annually for local taxing jurisdictions. That means Janesville schools, the county and city combined must now refund Bliss that amount for their last tax bill and use those new lowered assessed values as the current baseline moving forward.
It remains unclear which argument Bliss Com used to win those lowered assessments. The state apparently agreed to a middle number between the low assessment Bliss demanded and current assessed values, rather than performing a live objective re-assessment.
As it turns out, the newspaper that endorsed "conservative" rock stars Scott Walker, Paul Ryan and Ron Johnson, yet insists Janesville residents should support and accept higher tax obligations, recommended every local tax increase proposal and criticized area businesses for hiring lawyers to lower their property tax bills ...was a member of the "taxed too much already" lawyered-up club all along.
In the meantime, homeowners and small businesses get stuck with the tab. And some people wonder why so many think the entire system is rigged.
Posted by Lou Kaye at 12:04 AM