An 11-year dispute over tax assessments ended with a satisfying agreement for Allen County taxpayers this week. County Assessor Stacey O’Day announced a settlement with the owner of Glenbrook Square that ensures Fort Wayne Community Schools, the city of Fort Wayne, Allen County Public Library and other local taxing units won’t have to repay a contested $23 million in taxes already collected and distributed.
In the assessment field, an undervalued property for one owner means higher property tax bills for all others. O’Day’s persistence in seeking a fair market value in the dispute with mall owner General Growth Properties should reassure all taxpayers of the integrity of the county’s property tax assessments.
In dispute was nearly $23 million in property taxes paid since 2002. General Growth Properties agreed to relinquish its claims for refund of taxes paid through 2006 so that a refund of just $2.4 million is required.
The settlement marks the end of more than a decade of tax appeals, complicated by the mall owner’s bankruptcy filing and the unusual nature of the property, which includes anchor properties, outlots and retail kiosks. Mark GiaQuinta, attorney for the assessor’s office, said General Growth Properties challenged the assessment on constitutional grounds, arguing that its assessment was not uniform with other – undervalued – Indiana mall properties.
But the assessor’s staff had done its homework.
We negotiated from a position of strength knowing that my staff had done an excellent job determining the assessed value of this extremely complex piece of real estate, O’Day said in a news release.
Glenbrook Square’s new assessed value is $177.4 million. General Growth Properties’ most recent proposed assessment for the property was $65 million.
The mall owner is the largest taxpayer in the county for combined real estate and personal property taxes, with a total tax bill of almost $5.5 million last year. The second largest is General Motors Co., whose assessment also has been in dispute since 2006. Allen County commissioners approved a contract Friday for an appraisal for the southwest truck assembly plant.
The county has assessed the property at $74.9 million; GM asserts its assessment should be $35 million and will enter mediation with its own appraisal.
A 2007 building permit for the property was for $35 million alone, O’Day said. We think the (higher) assessment is more than fair. Other taxpayers would be picking up the difference.
Settlement of the mall case should reassure taxpayers that the assessor will persevere until an accurate figure is placed on the property’s market value and use.