Wal-Mart tax settlement reached
IRON MOUNTAIN — A settlement reached with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will reduce the taxable value of its supercenter on South Stephenson Avenue by about $730,000, or 14%.
In an appeal filed with the Michigan Tax Tribunal in June, the retailer had sought a reduction of $1.1 million, or 22%. As part of the settlement, Iron Mountain has paid a refund to Wal-Mart of $40,753 from taxes collected last summer, City Manager Jordan Stanchina said Monday.
The 2019 taxable value for the store was $5.23 million, but Wal-Mart petitioned for a value of $4.1 million. The settlement figure was $4.5 million.
Over the past decade, a controversial “dark store” assessment approach has become common. Big-box stores in Michigan have reduced their tax bills by convincing the tribunal their properties are so unique they can be assessed at less than the cost of construction.
The Wal-Mart case was the only major settlement in Iron Mountain for 2019, Stanchina said.
In previous years, agreements with the city have reduced taxable values for Systems Control, S&S Shopping Centers Ltd. (Kmart plaza), MJ Electric, O’Reilly Auto Parts, We Energies, Pine Grove Country Club and Northfield Restaurant Corp. (Pizza Hut).
“Hopefully, that’s coming to an end,” Stanchina said at Monday’s city council meeting.
In preparing a city budget last May, Stanchina estimated $14.5 million of taxable value lost in previous years, reducing general fund revenues by about $250,000.
In other action, the city council:
— Reviewed an annual audit with Scott Sternhagen of the accounting firm Clifton Larson Allen LLP. The general fund remains in good shape, Sternhagen said, but the city must continue to deal with underfunded retirement benefits. An actuarial estimate pegs the long-term liability at $57 million, which includes retiree health insurance as well as pensions. Retiree health care was phased out for new employees beginning in 2009 and Stanchina said more than half the city’s current workforce won’t be eligible for such benefits.
— Learned from Chief Finance Officer Heather Lieburn that general fund revenues came in higher than projected for fiscal year 2018-19, which ended June 30. She reported a general fund gain of about $150,000, due in part to timber sales of $51,723 and land sales of $36,000. Fines and forfeits — a combination of both ordinance and parking citations — climbed to $35,210, an increase of $16,916 from the previous fiscal year. Interest income rose to $79,710, an increase of $37,263. Overall, general fund revenues totaled $6.99 million, compared with a budget of $6.86. Expenditures were $6.83 million, compared with a budget of $6.87 million.
— Heard Stanchina say applications for adult use marijuana facilities will be scored this week as the city prepares for operations likely to begin this year. The city is allowing up to five business licenses for growing and processing marijuana but just two for retail shops.
— Referred to its infrastructure committee a request from Tena Anderson of Jean Kay’s Pasties for a 10-minute parking limit in front of the store at 204 E. B St. Customers are troubled because street parking is routinely occupied the entire day, she explained.
— Approved a payment not to exceed $6,677 to UP International Trucks of Iron Mountain for repairs to the exhaust gas recirculation, or EGR, system on a 2014 International plow truck. Council member Bill Revord was displeased the manufacturer refused warranty coverage, as the vehicle was just a month past the cutoff and had 17,000 miles of use.
— Approved a final payment of $52,493 to the Michigan Department of Transportation for a 2019 project on Vulcan Street. The work, aided by a Small Urban grant, involved resurfacing as well as concrete sidewalk ramps. The grant funds were capped at $210,591, which left $192,051 as the city’s responsibility. Mayor Dale Alessandrini asked whether drainage problems will be addressed by contractor Bacco Construction Co. of Iron Mountain and Stanchina said repairs will take place in the spring.
— Heard Stanchina discuss the need for additional signage at railroad crossings. In all, the city must install 30 “No Train Horn” signs and 10 “Railroad Crossing” signs.
— Agreed to remove a no-parking zone at 604 W. Brown St. The zone was established in 2006 for a resident with a disability who has since moved.
— Heard resident Jim Fornetti compliment city officials and Friends of City Park on the dog park, which opened in the summer of 2018.