Breitung Township presses Home Depot case to state Supreme Court

By NIKKI YOUNK

Staff Writer

QUINNESEC – Breitung Township’s case against a tax reduction at the Home Depot store within the township is headed to the Michigan Supreme Court.

Last week, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled against the township by upholding a Michigan Tax Tribunal ruling that significantly reduces the property tax assessment for the store.

During their Monday meeting, members of the Breitung Township Board of Trustees met in a closed session with their attorney Bill Fahey in order to discuss their options.

After a 45-minute discussion, the board unanimously decided to move the case forward to the Michigan Supreme Court. Trustee John Gaudette was absent from the meeting.

Township Superintendent Joe Rogina said that the board has until June 3 to file the appeal with the Michigan Supreme Court. However, he added that the court does not have to take the case.

“They’re very selective in their cases – they only take those with statewide significance,” Rogina explained. “I believe this case has statewide significance and impact.”

Marquette Township, which has a similar dispute with a Lowe’s store, had joined Breitung Township for the appeals court case. Rogina said that he did not yet know if Marquette Township plans to appeal its case to the Michigan Supreme Court.

In the appeals court case, Breitung Township claimed that Home Depot’s appraisal report was legally flawed because it compared an occupied store to abandoned properties. The appeals court determined that it was indeed appropriate to value the Home Depot store as vacant and available.

Dickinson County Equalization Director Sid Bray previously reported that Home Depot’s property tax assessment reduction amounts to a loss of more than 50 percent in taxable value for the property, and a total loss in tax base of nearly $8.2 million for the years 2009 through 2013.

Possible five-year revenue losses include $184,573 to the Breitung Township School District, $50,141 to Dickinson County, and $33,525 to Breitung Township.

In other business, the board:

– Decided to look into holding some sort of township clean-up event to dispose of debris like broken fences and building materials that are crowding yards and alleyways. Board members suggested bringing in some service groups to help out or placing dumpsters at the Quinnesec and East Kingsford fire halls for a weekend. Citizen input on the issue would also be appreciated.

– Took no action on purchasing Munetrix software that would bring together township information into one package for budgeting, charting, and tracking finances. The item had been tabled at the last meeting in order to give Rogina time to research the product. Rogina said that he found that the information compiled by Munetrix is nearly identical to information already on the township’s website.

– Approved a request from Township Assessor Joan Nelson to purchase a Dell computer tablet and related software at a total cost of $3,900. Rogina said that using a handheld tablet will be much more efficient than taking all of the necessary paperwork into the field.

– Authorized board members to attend the Michigan Townships Association’s On the Road session in Marquette on June 24 or 25. The township will cover the cost of registration, mileage, and per diem.

– Approved Township Treasurer Carol Taylor’s request to attend the Michigan Municipal Treasurers Association’s Upper Peninsula training session in Marquette on May 30. The township will cover the cost of registration, mileage, and meals.

Nikki Younk’s e-mail address is nyounk@ironmountaindailynews.com.