The Ladysmith Common Council met in closed session on Monday, Jan. 7, to confer with legal counsel in considering a response to a Walmart claim of over-assessment and possible resolution of that claim.

Afterward the council did not announce what action it took in closed session, stating it is part of a lawsuit and should not be made public in the Ladysmith News.

“It should remain in closed session,” City Attorney Allen Kenyon told the council.

A property tax relief lawsuit filed against Ladysmith by owners of Walmart appears headed toward a settlement. The suit seeks relief from what it alleges is an excessive tax assessment and non-uniform tax assessment.

A property assessment revaluation in the city this year slashed the company’s store assessment 36.32 percent, from $8.90 million in 2017 to $5.67 million in 2018, closer to the $4.6 million company attorneys argue in a lawsuit the store should be valued at and taxed on.

In 2017, Walmart filed an objection to the company’s assessment with the city’s board of review. The board denied the company’s request.

Last January, Walmart served a claim for excessive assessment. One month later, the city’s common council denied Walmart’s claim.

The Walmart lawsuit seeks to recover at least $75,900 plus interest. It also requests an award of all litigation costs it incurs including the reasonable fees of its attorneys and any such other and further relief as the court deems appropriate and just.

In its claims of relief from what it calls the city’s excessive tax assessment and a violation of the Wisconsin Constitution’s Uniformity Clause, the company’s lawsuit argues the fair market of the property is no higher than $4.6 million, or about half of its current $8.9 million valuation.

“The 2017 assessment of the property was excessive. As a result, the tax imposed on the property for 2017 was excessive,” the company’s lawsuit states.

The lawsuit also alleges the 2017 assessment was not uniform with the assessment of other properties in the city and state and therefore, violates the Uniformity Clause of the Wisconsin Constitution.

“Walmart is entitled to a refund of 2017 taxes paid as maybe determined to be due to Walmart, plus statutory interest,” the lawsuit states.

The company is arguing to have its 2017 property taxes reduced $75,944 from $209,354 calculated on the $8.90 million assessed value to $133,410 on the $4.59 million it believes is fair market value of the property on Port Arthur Road.

“The fair market value of the property for the 2017 assessment is no higher than $4,591,543. This value is derived from sales of comparable properties and by ascertaining the fair market rent from the property and capitalizing that amount, net of a vacancy and collection loss and net of expenses,” states Robert Hill, an attorney for the company in a claim for excessive assessment. “The correct assessment of the property for the 2017 assessment should be no higher than $5,669,125, and the correct tax on the property for 2017 should be no higher than $133,409.81. As a result the excessive assessment of the property for 2017, an excess tax in at least the amount of $75,943.70 was imposed on the property.”