Taxable property values up slightly in Marquette County for 2018

Jackie Lykins, director of Marquette County’s Equalization Department, recommends the equalized value of each assessing unit in Marquette County to the Marquette County Board Tuesday night. (Journal photo by Cecilia Brown)

MARQUETTE — Taxable values of property in Marquette County increased from last year, but not as much as officials had hoped.

The Marquette County Board of Commissioners held a special meeting Tuesday night and unanimously approved equalization valuations presented by the Marquette County Equalization Department.

Jackie Lykins, director of the department, presented the report, which recommended the equalized value of each assessing unit in Marquette County, as found by the department’s appraisals and assessments of personal and real property throughout the county.

The tentative total taxable value for Marquette County increased by 1.55 percent in the past year, from roughly $2.34 billion in 2017 to $2.38 billion in 2018, the report states.

The assessed value of all units in Marquette County increased by .81 percent since last year, going up to about $3.01 billion from $2.99 billion.

“The good news is we went up, the bad news up is we didn’t go up as much as we would have,” Lykins said, noting that Tilden Township experienced a large decrease in assessed and taxable values since 2017.

Lykins said most assessing units remained relatively stable, with Tilden Township having the largest percentage decrease in assessed and taxable values, dropping 8.36 and 8.09 percent, respectively, since 2017. This equates to a decrease of nearly $5 million in assessed value and a decrease of $2.8 million in taxable value in Tilden Township.

“Last year, they had the highest increase in the county of Marquette, thanks to new utilities on the gas company, Northern Natural Gas,” Lykins said. “And Northern Natural Gas petitioned the (Michigan) Department of Treasury to get the advanced depreciation that some of the other utilities get, and they gave it to them. So, in addition to their regular depreciation, they gave them an accelerated depreciation of 40 percent, so that was quite a difference. They actually had an increase of 5 percent last year, and then they dropped 8 percent this year because of that reduction.”

Lykins said because the accelerated depreciation is mandated by other agencies, there is nothing that can be done about the situation.

“There’s nothing that anyone can do because those are mandated by the Department of Treasury and the State Tax Commission for multipliers. Certainly no favor done to the local units, including Marquette County,” Lykins said.

Commissioner Karen Alholm asked if Lykins could provide any information on the impact to the county’s finances due to reductions through “dark store” appeals.

“We didn’t have any what we would call dark store reductions in 2017,” Lykins responded. “They had a couple of appeals in Marquette Township that were settled (in 2017). The biggest impact would have been the settlement of Wisconsin Electric power plant, they got a reduction of approximately $25 million, I believe.”

Lykins said while she doesn’t know of any appeals for 2018 yet, they are typically filed later in the year, as businesses have only recently received notification of what the 2018 values are at this point in the year.

She added that with the prior court cases regarding big box stores settled, “those are the ones we’ll never recoup because those taxable values were established and they are what they are.”

“Unfortunately, historically, we can’t do anything,” she continued. “Those values of the prior court cases are already settled and now they can just go up the rate of inflation, unless there’s new construction … So the damage is already done. Now it’s just (our) hope to stop the bleeding, start making some forward progress.”

The goal of the annual equalization process is to determine distribution of values among the 22 assessing units in the county. Those determinations are made by the local assessors in each township or city, confirming that they have complied with statutes determining assessed values throughout their local assessing unit, Lykins said.

Lykins clarified that assessors do not set taxable value for properties.

“Assessed values is our focus,” she said. “Taxable values basically determine themselves based on statute and conditions for each individual parcel.”