Tax breaks for big box stores under fire in U.P.

Associated Press

Marquette — Leaders in an Upper Peninsula county are trying to cast light on the adverse impacts of tax appeals by big-box stores, which are causing refunds and a reduction in public services.

Some large stores have successfully argued to the Michigan Tax Tribunal that their properties are uniquely built for their needs and worth much less than the cost of construction. They say they should be assessed as if they were empty.

Home Depot, Lowe’s, Meijer and others have won smaller property assessments around Michigan.

“People are unaware of how big of a problem there is, or that there even is a problem,” Fred Kotler, a lawyer in Marquette, told The Mining Journal ( ).

The Peter White Library in Marquette has cut hours and been told to set aside about $220,000 for more possible cuts. Other public agencies are tightening belts.

“So many people depend on us for so many things,” library director Pam Christensen said. “To them, the public library seems sacred.”

A group called Marquette County Citizens for Fair Share is holding a public forum on Nov. 5 at the Ramada Inn. It will be moderated by former Marquette Mayor Robert Kulisheck.

“The message is wake up — wake up people and look at what the potential impact to your community is if this is not halted,” said Randy Girard, the Marquette Township supervisor.

Lawmakers in Lansing are sponsoring bills that would stop the lower property assessments. The Michigan Retailers Association believes stores shouldn’t be targeted.