Assessor calls tax court ruling in favor of Bloomington CVS store ‘sickening’

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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (Aug. 25, 2015) -- A tax court ruled in favor of a CVS store in Bloomington, the latest in a series of cases that has county assessors calling for action.

The ruling, by the Indiana Board of Tax Review, lowered the property assessment on the CVS store by more than $1 million a year. It means Monroe County could owe hundreds of thousands in back taxes and the store will now pay less in property taxes.

"It was sickening and it still is," Monroe County Assessor Judy Sharp said.

Sharp has been speaking out against big chain stores that are using what's been dubbed the "dark box" method to lower their taxes. Those stores argue that their property should be assessed similarly to vacant properties, significantly dropping their property taxes.

"It's going to be a lot of money," Sharp said.

That money could ultimately come from homeowners.

"As one type of property pays less, other people pay more," said David Bottorff, Executive Director of the Association of Indiana Counties.

Bottorff said the math is simple. If big box stores like CVS continue to win cases and lower their taxes, that money will need to come from somewhere else.

"The tax burden on homeowners will increase, on farms and really on a lot of ... locally owned businesses," Bottorff said.

This ruling is the latest in a string of cases that sided with the stores. Even a bill passed by legislators this session did not deter the board, leading Bottorff to call on legislators and the Governor to put an end to the practice for good.

"We appreciate all their efforts from this past session, but we do feel like we have some more work to do," Bottorff said.

Sharp, meanwhile, said she planned to appeal the ruling and continue to fight against the practice, which she believes is headed in a dangerous direction for taxpayers.

"It’s impacting us all and ... it’s going impact you as a homeowner, me as a homeowner, everyone out there and where’s it going to stop?" Sharp said.

A CVS spokesperson sent CBS4 the following statement regarding the case:

"We are committed to being a good corporate citizen in the communities we serve and to paying our fair share of property tax, in accordance with applicable state statutes and appropriate appraisal methodology. We analyze the assessed market value of our properties annually to determine if those values are reflective of the real estate market for that particular assessment time frame. In cases where we believe we are being over-assessed, an appeal may be filed."

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