Kohl's Department Stores has lost an appeal seeking refund of what it claimed were excess taxes paid to the city of Neenah.
The Menominee Falls-based chain challenged the 2009 appraisal of $7,538,000, and the appraisal was reduced to $6,992,400 by the city assessor. The figure stayed the same for 2010.
Kohl's sued, seeking a lower figure and resulting refund in taxes.
According to the decision released by Wednesday by the court of appeals:
"At the court trial, Kohl's called appraiser S. Steven Vitale as an expert witness. Vitale testified that the property had a value of $5,210,000 in 2009, and $4,950,000 in 2010. The City introduced exhibits from the board's review hearing, including the original assessment, the assessor's methodology and calculations, and the open book review notes. The City also presented portions of the Wisconsin Property Assessment Manual for Wisconsin Assessors and called its own expert, appraiser Daniel R. Furdek, who testified that the property had a value of $7,800,000 in 2009, and $7,900,000 in 2010.
The trial court concluded that Vitale's appraisal was unpersuasive and explained its reasons for rejecting each of Vitale's three valuation analyses. The court found that Vitale's cost approach factored in an economic obsolescence percentage that was "very difficult to believe," that his sales approach considered incomparable properties, and that his income approach involved incomplete accounting and square footage numbers that were "way off." Based on these findings, the trial court concluded that Kohl's had failed to rebut the statutory presumption in favor of the City's $6,992,400 assessment."
Then Kohl's appealed that decision, but in Wednesday's ruling , the appeals court says Kohl's did not overcome the statutory presumption that the city's appraisal was correct.
"We conclude that Kohl's did not carry its burden to prove that the City's assessment was excessive. The trial court weighed the evidence and the competing expert opinions and found that Vitale's appraisal was not credible. The trial court's findings were not clearly erroneous. Additionally, Vitale did not directly attack the City assessor's methodology or adherence to protocol, but instead offered an alternative approach resulting in a lower appraisal. The use by both trial experts of the valuation approaches employed by the City's assessor supported the presumptive correctness of the City's assessment. Kohl's evidence was insufficient to "compel the conclusion that the assessor's valuation was incorrect[,]" and therefore Kohl's failed to rebut the statutory presumption in favor of the City," the court wrote.
The appeals court decision does not say the specific amount of the refund Kohl's was seeking.