Tate & Lyle only paying undisputed tax

Jeremy Nash News-Herald.net

A decision by Tate & Lyle to pay only the undisputed portion of personal and real property taxes for 2016 has officials concerned about a shortfall in the 2017-18 fiscal year budgets for the city of Loudon and Loudon County.

A letter was sent to city and county representatives early last month expressing the company’s intention to pay $1,461,056.14. Tate & Lyle was billed for $2,421,519.42, leaving a difference of $960,463.28.

“That’s an extremely big deal to short your tax payment by whatever it was, nearly $1 million ... and, of course, the percentage breaks down between Loudon (County) and Loudon city, I reckon,” Commissioner Van Shaver said. “So, that’s certainly a blow to fail to get revenue already counted into the budget and that sort of stuff. It’s my understanding that they have a legal right to do that and they obviously have chosen to do it.”

The letter indicates the decision is justifiable given recent rulings from the Tennessee State Board of Equalization over a personal property assessment dispute for 2011 and 2012.
“It is our intention to pay the tangible personal property taxes based on the non-standard value reported in the 2016 return of $104,377,619 as this return was also supported by Mr. (Tim) Landolt using the same methodology as he used on the 2011 & 2012 appraisals,” the letter said.
The letter also notes Tate & Lyle plans to pay real property estimates based on a “good faith estimate” the Assessment Appeals Commission will rule in its favor of its valuation of $42 million for 2016.
As of Monday, Loudon County Property Assessor Mike Campbell said the county has not been notified of a ruling on Tate & Lyle’s real property. A hearing was held in November.
Campbell said the nearly $1 million shortfall could make a “very large impact,” which is the equivalent of a 13-cent rate increase to make up the difference for the city of Loudon and nearly 4 cents for the county.
“I’m not implying there will be a tax rate increase. The shortfall illustrates what the actual impact is for the two,” Campbell said in an email correspondence. “It takes months to establish a budget, calculating expenditures, calculating revenues and planning for projects then to have shortfalls of these sizes hurts everyone.”
Campbell said Tate & Lyle is expected to pay last year’s taxes by the end of February. The county’s assessed value of Tate & Lyle’s personal and real property was about $56 million and $22 million, respectively. Tate & Lyle assessed its personal and real property at about $31 million and $16 million, respectively.
“Tate & Lyle’s objective from the beginning of this property tax appeal has been to establish a correct and fair assessed value for our Loudon plant,” Chris Olsen, Tate & Lyle representative, said in an email correspondence. “The Tennessee Board of Equalization has now issued rulings establishing the assessed value for both real and personal property associated with our Loudon plant. Tate & Lyle has notified the county of our intention of complying with the Tennessee Board of Equalization’s ruling in the payment of our property taxes. It continues to be our desire to work with the county to minimize disruption, while adhering to the board’s decision.”
Loudon City Councilman Jeff Harris said officials will have to “keep a tight rein” as departments start preparing for the coming fiscal year.
“We’ve basically just tried to tell the department heads it just kind of needs to be a trim budget because it’s probably — we’re just going to try to keep a tight rein on everything with not knowing what the outcome of all of this is going to be and even more so now that we know we’re not going to have that tax revenue,” Harris said.
City Manager Lynn Mills said Tate & Lyle’s payment will be a reduction of $372,178.81 from how much was the city valued the company’s real and personal property for 2016. With a smaller payment expected, Mills said the city will have to look “real hard” at cutting expenses and possibly tap its fund balance.
“So many of our departments — virtually all — are affected by the value of the penny, especially our school system,” Loudon County Mayor Rollen “Buddy” Bradshaw said. “They’re such a huge part of our budget. That’ll be the biggest impact will be on the schools, but then again when you look at our highway department and all of our departments virtually are based — I think there’s a few there on some sales tax and stuff. The loss of those four tax pennies, that’s big, especially with budget time coming up.”