County settles with Walmart over its property tax assessment
TOWANDA - In response to a recent out-of-court settlement with Walmart, the two Republican Bradford County commissioners said they get very aggravated sometimes with larger companies that appeal their property tax assessments in the county.
The county may be put in a position where it has to settle out of court with the company, resulting in lower property taxes for the company, but a higher tax burden for everyone else, said Bradford County Commissioner Doug McLinko.
"I would like to remind some of these bigger corporations that when they do this (appeal their assessments), the individual taxpayer has to pick up the burden when we have to settle out of court," McLinko said at Thursday's meeting of the Bradford County commissioners.
McLinko, a Republican, said he gets "very aggravated" at larger companies sometimes when they appeal their assessments "because they are putting the (tax) burden on the homeowners and the regular residents."
Daryl Miller, a fellow Republican, said he shares McLinko's sentiments.
On Feb. 20, the county reached an out-of-court settlement with Walmart, which had appealed the property tax assessment on its store at 517 N. Elmira St. in Athens Township.
The settlement reduces the property tax bills on the store by 23 percent, according to information provided by the Bradford County Assessment Office.
As a result of the settlement, the Athens Area School District will lose $23,576 in taxes for 2012, said Donna Roof, chief Bradford County assessor.
Also, the county will lose $5,516 in taxes for 2012 and Athens Township will lose $5,588 in taxes for that year, she said.
Due to the settlement, the Bradford County commissioners on Thursday passed a motion to refund to Walmart $5,516 of the county property taxes the company paid in 2012.
Walmart is planning to tear down the store to create parking for its planned Supercenter, which will be built near the site of the existing store.
"Unfortunately, this is getting to be a trend with some of these bigger companies" where they "come in and challenge their assessments," McLinko said at the commissioners' meeting.
In 2012, the Bradford County commissioners reached an out-of-court settlement with CraftMaster Manufacturing Inc. in which the property tax bills on its Wysox Township plant were reduced by 14.7 percent. The property tax bills on the CraftMaster plant had been previously reduced in a 2007 out-of-court settlement with the county.
As a result of a 2011 settlement with the county, Ingersoll Rand Co. received a 25 percent reduction in the real estate taxes that it pays on an industrial property it owns at 101 N. Main St. in Athens.
McLinko said the county commissioners' settlement with Walmart was "the best we could do."
If the county had not settled out of court with Walmart, the county could have lost the case and gotten "hit a lot harder" financially, McLinko said.
Walmart had originally appealed the assessment on the store to the Bradford County Board of Assessment, which issued a decision on Nov. 3, 2011 stating that it would not lower the assessment on the store.
On Nov. 15, 2011, Walmart appealed the Board of Assessment's decision to the Court of Common Pleas of Bradford County.
In a court document filed in Common Pleas Court, Walmart argued that the county's assessment on the store "is substantially higher" than assessments of comparable properties in the area.
As a result of the county's settlement with Walmart, which is dated Feb. 20, the assessment on the Walmart store was reduced from $2,250,000 to $1,742,000, a 23 percent reduction, Roof said.
The Bradford County commissioners, who are the Bradford County Board of Assessment, settled out of court with Walmart on the advice of the county's solicitor, McLinko said.
James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.