Nestle lawsuit still in mediation

At the beginning of 2015, on Jan. 14, Property Appraiser Leigh Barfield addressed the County Commission at their monthly meeting regarding the Nestle lawsuit. A similar lawsuit was settled in 2007.  The result of Nestle’s original lawsuit was a $44 million value being placed on the property for tax year 2007. Since the 2007 settlement, there has been a decrease of approximately $2 million in value due to ordinary depreciation.  In 2014, Nestle brought in a professional tax representative and filed a petition to the Value Adjustment Board. Nestle is contending that the value should be at $22.5 million and they filed a lawsuit to contest the value.  If Nestle is successful in its lawsuit, this could have ominous prospects for the county, as it would mean the county would only take in a total of $225,000 in tax dollars. This would not include the impact on the school district and other taxing entities.  “If you take the difference in our assessment [$44 million] from what they’re wanting the property assessed at [$22.5 million], you’re looking at a significant difference,” said Barfield during the Jan. 14 county commission meeting.  The loss wouldn’t necessarily be a one-time thing, but would repeat itself each year; meaning in five years, there would be nearly a $1 million loss from the general fund.  After hearing Barfield’s report and proposal, it was decided that the county would contest the lawsuit.  Teaming up with the Madison County School Board, as had been done in the past when facing the previous lawsuit involving Nestle, the County Commission decided to bring in their own appraisal (which supports Ms. Barfield’s valuation) to present a stronger case against Nestle.  When it was originally decided, it was uncertain how long the lawsuit process would take, but now, nearly a year later, the mediation process is still underway.  Barfield was unable to give further information, except that the mediation between Madison County and the Nestle Bottling Company is expected to occur in the near future.

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