Industry tax appeal cases ongoing

Jeremy Nash

An administrative law judge with the Tennessee State Board of Equalization in July ruled in favor of Tate & Lyle over a personal property tax assessment dispute for 2011 and 2012. The county has since appealed and is waiting for a hearing date to be set, Loudon County Property Assessor Mike Campbell said.

A hearing was held in November on Tate & Lyle’s real property, which should be determined in a matter of weeks.

County and Kimberly-Clark representatives met in September for a hearing on real property from 2011-13, which resulted in a November decision of $35.7 million from the Assessment Appeals Commission.

“There is a final decision in order on Kimberly-Clark and we’re waiting on the final certificate,” Campbell said. “There’s a time period that is allowed for any rebuttal and appeals. There’s a couple little minor appeals that are available to that decision, but we anticipate the final certificate on Kimberly-Clark probably in the next three weeks, four weeks, somewhere in that timeframe, next 30 days.”
Loudon County Mayor Rollen “Buddy” Bradshaw said the Kimberly-Clark ruling, although not completely in favor of the county, could have been “a lot worse.”
“The rulings came down for Kimberly-Clark and both sides lost a little bit,” Bradshaw said. “They were closer to what we felt like — we still believe we’re 100 percent right. It was closer to where we were than where they wanted to be, and so we’re kind of looking at the appeal process and deciding if they’re going to appeal and kind of play by ear from there.”
Ultimately, Campbell said he believes both cases will make their way to chancery court if no resolution is made, with Kimberly-Clark being the first to be heard.
“The assessed values of all the involved real and personal property are part of the public records of my office,” Campbell said. “There is a very large difference of opinion between Loudon County and Kimberly-Clark and Tate & Lyle regarding the value of the involved real and personal property. For example, evidence presented by my office in front of the Assessment Appeals Commission showed that the real property of Kimberly-Clark was valued at $39.5 million. Kimberly-Clark presented evidence the value was $9.7 million. The Assessment Appeals Commission found the value to be $35.7 million.
“I expect this decision to be appealed to chancery court in the near future,” he added.
Campbell said the uncertainty from these appeals is “enormous,” noting there is a $292,822.40 difference in the 2011 property tax for Kimberly-Clark real property when compared to the Assessment Appeal Commission’s finding.
“And that is per year on just Kimberly-Clark real property,” Campbell said. “The claimed refund due for Tate & Lyle on both the real and personal property is substantially higher.”
During a Jan. 9 Loudon City Council meeting, board members discussed the county’s valuation of Tate & Lyle real property at $51.5 million, while company representatives deemed the property roughly half that at $26.7 million. The Assessment Appeals Commission valued the property at $42 million.
“It would cost us $(1.15) million paying it back over the six-year period,” Joe Ford, city attorney, said during the meeting.
Loudon City Mayor Jim Greenway declined comment, but noted “there’s some decisions to be made” that will be in the hands of lawyers.
“My opinion on the overall is that we should continue to appeal as far as we can,” Loudon County Commissioner Van Shaver said. “I strongly disagree with their actions of appealing this and it’s a lot of money, so I think we’re in this for the long haul as far as I’m concerned.”
Shaver said an executive session was scheduled to be held on Tuesday regarding the tax appeals.
“We’ve got to depend on Mike (Campbell) and whoever his professionals are to advise us and tell us what we need to do,” Shaver said.
If the cases go to chancery court, Campbell said he would need approval from both Loudon County Commission and Loudon City Council to obtain more funding.
“My budget does not allow for additional appraisal experts and legal fees,” Campbell said. “If the company appeals the decisions, we will defend our position and there will be additional expert testimony and legal fees that will need to be funded by the city and county.”
News-Herald staff writer Heidi Lara contributed to this report.