BLOOMINGTON — Attorneys representing four local taxing bodies showed Tuesday they're not ready to hand Mitsubishi Motors North America a quarter-million-dollar tax break just because the company is closing its plant in Normal in May.
Lawyers speaking for McLean County Unit 5 schools, Heartland Community College, Dry Grove Township and Dry Grove Township Road District said Tuesday they have significant problems with Mitsubishi's claim that property taxes for the company's land in Normal should be cut from $798,000 to $529,000 for 2015 taxes payable in 2016.
They spoke during a 90-minute hearing Tuesday before the county's Board of Review. McLean County Assistant State's Attorney Don Knapp said a decision in the case will be released within one to three weeks.
Local lawyers Emmet Fairfield and Brian Hug questioned the thoroughness of an appraisal paid for by Mitsubishi that suggests the company's plant at 100 N. Mitsubishi Motorway and warehouse at 2601 W. College Ave. should be reassessed from a combined $9.3 million to $6.2 million.
"It is impossible to assess the logic of (the appraiser's) conclusions and the consistency of his approach given that he doesn't quantify the adjustments he makes to comparable sales," said Fairfield, who represented Unit 5 and Heartland at the hearing.
Mitsubishi attorneys responded that the appraisal was prepared by an expert with 35 years of experience and is the only documented evidence in the case.
Hug, who represented Dry Grove Township and its road district, said he objected to the "ambush nature" of the appraisal. The document, dated Dec. 9, was delivered to county officials on the last possible day, Friday.
"There were no ambush tactics employed here," said Jim Chipman, an attorney representing Mitsubishi. "The Board of Review said we could submit (materials) by Friday at 4 o'clock, and we did."
Fairfield also questioned the timing of the request, which is related to the plant's assessment as of Jan. 1, 2015. Mitsubishi contends the plant is less valuable when it's not operating, but no production changes went into effect until November 2015.
"Property tax reduction is not justified for the 2015 calendar year. Mitsubishi is still making parts, the equipment is all still there and the property use has not changed," said Curt Richardson, human resources director and attorney for Unit 5, after the hearing.
If Mitsubishi's request is denied, the company can appeal to the state's Property Tax Appeal Board, which Chipman served as executive director for 12 years.