Two retailers — Menards and Walmart — are again challenging their property tax assessments in the city of Eau Claire.
The suits, filed in Eau Claire County Court by attorneys from the same Milwaukee law firm, claim the 2018 assessments of their properties are excessive.
News of the latest series of suits — each of the plaintiffs took legal action earlier this year challenging their 2017 property assessments — didn’t surprise Jay Winzenz, the city’s finance director.
“This is the same thing they are doing all over the state … the same cast of characters,” said Winzenz, noting certain large commercial retail property owners are trying to reduce their property tax bills using loopholes, ultimately shifting the burden to other taxpayers.
According to court records:
In its suit Keystone Corp. and Menard Inc., 5101 Menard Drive, assert the value of two properties, located at 3619 Hastings Way, should be $6.5 million and $1 million — not the $10.09 million and $1.68 million set by the city assessor’s office.
In a separate suit, Menard Inc. contends the assessment of $10.95 million for the property at 3210 N. Clairemont Ave. should actually be no more than $7 million.
And Chippewa Valley Partners of Bentonville, Ark., argue the $12.6 million assessment for Walmart, 3915 Gateway Drive, is $4.1 million more than it should be.
Each plaintiff is asking the court for a determination that the values of the properties are no higher than they allege, a finding each is entitled to a refund of all taxes paid on the portion of the assessment that was excessive and an award of court costs, including attorney fees.
In each case, the plaintiffs filed objections to the 2018 assessments of their properties with the city’s Board of Review. At the scheduled board hearing, the board granted each waivers of the BOR hearing.
Since 2015, the Board of Review has the authority to waive a board hearing at the request of the property owner or assessor or at its own discretion, according to the state Department of Revenue’s website, and allow the property owner to appeal directly to the circuit court.
In July, 11 civil suits challenging property tax assessments and seeking refunds were filed against the city. According to the state court website, all cases remain open.
Going forward, “I have no doubt there will be additional court filings,” Winzenz said.
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