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2009AP2260 U.S. Oil Co., Inc., v. City of Milwaukee

By: WISCONSIN LAW JOURNAL STAFF//December 28, 2010//

2009AP2260 U.S. Oil Co., Inc., v. City of Milwaukee

By: WISCONSIN LAW JOURNAL STAFF//December 28, 2010//

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Uniformity clause

Where a municipality assessed one taxpayer using the income approach when it could have similarly reassessed all comparable properties, the assessment violated the Uniformity Clause.

“There is no dispute that Furdek used the income method to reassess the property. In preparation for the Board of Review hearing, Furdek reviewed U.S. Oil’s initial $6 million assessments for 2004 and 2005, relying on Board of Review subpoena power to obtain detailed financial information from U.S. Oil, such as audits, financial statements, balance sheets, operating statements, auditor’s opinions, gross income, and lease information. Furdek then prepared a report in which he revalued U.S. Oil’s property at over $14 million-a value more than $8 million higher than the initial assessments. The assessments of every other property at the Granville Terminal Complex, on the other hand, stayed the same. The other properties remained assessed according to the sales method, which had relied on a 2002 sale of U.S. Oil’s Central terminal. Prior to Furdek’s reassessment of U.S. Oil, all of the properties at the Complex, properties which the parties agree are comparable, had been assessed according to the same methodology and had received assessments that differed only slightly on a per-barrel basis. Yet in March 2006, Furdek singled out U.S. Oil, using a different methodology to arrive at a rate more than twice the per-barrel assessment of every other property. Furdek obtained income information from U.S. Oil, which the City acknowledged it could have imputed to all of the properties at the Granville Terminal Complex. It could have reassessed the other properties at any time before the Board of Review adjourned-specifically, before November 1, 2006, for tax year 2004 and January 30, 2007, for tax year 2005. But it chose not to do so. Indeed, with respect to BP Amoco, it would appear the City used the specter of reassessment to persuade BP Amoco to withdraw its Board of Review appeal. We conclude that by ‘singling out’ U.S. Oil, by reassessing it at a significantly higher rate using a different methodology and then declining to reassess the comparable terminals by the methodology used for U.S. Oil, the City violated the Uniformity Clause.”


Recommended for publication in the official reports.

2009AP2260 U.S. Oil Co., Inc., v. City of Milwaukee

Dist. I, Milwaukee County, Lamelas, J., Curley, J.

Attorneys: For Appellant: Langley, Grant F., Milwaukee; Moschella, Vincent D., Milwaukee; Seibel, Amy R., Mequon; For Respondent: Anderson, Ross A., Milwaukee; Pickart, Joseph A., Milwaukee

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