‘Dark Store’ Problems – Are They Listening?

In his Word on the Street blog this week [12-12-15], Brian Cabell reports that MI Representative John Kivela “…noticed a remarkable and encouraging change in attitude in Lansing on the ‘dark store’ issue. Legislators who had previously dismissed the issue are now acknowledging there might be a problem. The Municipal League and realtors, and even the Chamber of Commerce have testified before the Tax Policy Committee in the last few days conceding that something might have to be done.” Kivela’s cautionary forecast is that new  “…bill or bills [will be] introduced in the legislature by spring, with bipartisan support, and possibly passage by summer.”  Here’s some of what has happened this past week in Lansing…

The Marquette Mining Journal also reported [12-11-15] on the Tax Policy Progress  that took place during a second hearing focusing on the ‘dark store’ rulings at the Tax Policy Committee of the Michigan House Wednesday [12-9-15].  Progress was made toward finding a solution, said David Maturen,  a Republican state representative serving the 63rd District and majority vice-chairman of the committee.
“We’re trying to find some common ground to get us back to what I perceive is a correct approach in valuing property,” he said. “We just want a level playing field for not only assessors, but also property owners.” Representative Maturen is heading up a work group to do just this. See his recent interview with Battle Creek station WBCK.

Marquette County Commissioner Joe Derocha presented the committee with 2,000 signatures from concerned citizens supporting a legislative fix. [thanks to all who signed the recent Move On.org petition sponsored by Marquette County Citizens for Fair Share]

Many others from Counties across Michigan spoke at the hearing, as well, and noted the budget shortfalls felt across the board. Van Buren County speakers testified that MI Tax Tribunal rulings resulted in %50 of Market Value for their ‘big box’ stores, while the same stores in neighboring Wisconsin are holding at full Market Value. This is causing revenue losses of almost $1M. Van Buren ISD Superintendent spoke to these losses as greatly affecting students, especially in the area of Special Education, those most in need of services. “Every $1M lost in valuation equates to $3,332 in lost special education revenue…In addition, through the process of litigation for two large companies…the price tag is not cheap.”

Oakland Cnty Study_smBusinessvsBigSpeakers from Oakland County presented a study  showing that small business owners’ property taxes have been consistently higher than their ‘big box’ counterparts.

An attorney and an assessor from Troy argued that the ‘dark store’ basis for Tax Tribunal rulings are not closely in compliance with “Michigan’s definition of ‘true cash value’ as contained in the Michigan General Property Tax Act…”

To view/download actual transcripts of these and more hearing testimonies. Click the Testimony drop-down link on the House Tax Policy Committee.

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