Flint Township fighting commercial tax disputes

FLINT TWP. — The Michigan attorney general’s office will step in to help Flint Township with one of its largest commercial property tax disputes coming before the Michigan Tax Tribunal in late fall.

South Linden Road Holdings, aka Genesee Valley Center mall, is challenging assessments from more recent years after getting nearly a $100,000 refund in a settlement last year for its 2009 assessment,

“It is such a large appeal that the attorney general got involved,” said Township Supervisor Karyn Miller.

The attorney general’s office has put out bids for an appraiser and will pay four-fifths of the costs, Miller said. She said it is the first time she is aware of that the state got involved in a tax dispute but she is pleased to have the help.

The amount in dispute was not disclosed.

The mall is one of many township business making appeals to the state Tax Tribunal this year. Sears at Genesee Valley is on the docket for an early September prehearing for its 2011 tax bill; . Citizens Bank (now First Merit) is on the December docket for 2012 taxes, and Furniture Row on South Linden was scheduled to go before the Tax Tribunal July 30 for its 2011 bill.

Miller said that the township’s goal is to settle the disputes before going to Tax Tribunal because it saves time and money.

“We have settled a lot of them but some of them refuse to budge,” she said.

Because of declining property values since 2008, the township saw more tax appeals on the residential side and is now seeing more on the commercial side.

“As residential appeals dwindled, we’ve seen more commercial,” Miller said.

Residential tax disputes must first go before the township Board of Appeals for consideration.

This year’s commercial spate of disputes is coming during an awkward transition time when the township is losing two of its longtime assessors.

Amede Hungerford, the township’s level four assessor is retiring and Mark Macdermaid, who has handled commercial appraisals for the township since the 1970s, has submitted his letter of resignation, Miller said.

At its July 15 meeting, the township board voted to hire Snyder Real Estate Associates of Flint to assist the assessment department with three appraisals for businesses with upcoming Tax Tribunal hearings. They are the Golden Corral on Miller Road, the Bristol Medical Building on Bristol Road and a vacant former Speedway gas station on Ballenger Hwy.

Miller said the township budgets to manage tax appeal refunds but she also noted that the township bears the costs for those appeals though it keeps only 12 percent of taxes it collects. The rest is earmarked for schools, senior services, a veteran’s tax and for paramedics.

“Those entities don’t have to (pay to) fight these appeals,” she said.

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