MALONE — Malone is investing more in its legal fund to fight off corporate property-tax challenges that leave local property owners paying more in taxes.
In the 2014 tentative budget, Budget Officer Andrea Stewart has placed eight times the amount of money she set aside this year for judgments and claims, growing the account from $3,500 to $24,500.
“I did build in an increase in legal fees because you can’t just settle,” she said. “You have to fight the larger entities who are working to pay as little as possible because it costs the taxpayer.”
Two recent Certiorari proceedings have been brought against the town, challenging the property assessment at the U.S. Border Protection building and also Walmart.
Town Assessor Amy Hewitt said the Border Patrol barracks on Route 11 was originally assessed at $11,857,000, but the assessed value was lowered to $8.5 million in a settlement reached before the case went to Franklin County Supreme Court.
The agreement stipulated a refund for $27,000 in overpayment of taxes, which was split up across two years at Stewart’s request.
The first payment of $10,150 was made in July, and the balance will be paid in the 2014 budget, the budget officer said.
Walmart’s challenge came in 2011, when its assessment was reduced from $13,972,000 to $12 million, Hewitt said.
There was no refund to Walmart because one wasn’t sought in that agreement, she said.
Kmart files an annual challenge to assessments on its two parcels. The store itself is assessed at $3 million, and the rest of the shopping center it sits on is assessed at $3.5 million, Hewitt said.
“Kmart does this every year, but it’s gone nowhere with them,” she said. “They are notorious for this. They litter the state every year in hopes of getting somebody to come down somewhere.
“It’s with the town attorney now and is an open-ended case.”