WI Court of Supreme Court
Case Name: Saint John’s Communities, Inc. v. City of Milwaukee
Case No.: 2020AP001696
Officials: Annette Kingsland Ziegler, C.J.
Focus: Property Tax Assessment
Saint John’s owns an age-restricted continuing care retirement community located on a single parcel in the City of Milwaukee. Through 2018, the City recognized the Property as fully exempt from property taxation. In 2018, Saint John’s began a project to renovate and expand the Property. Saint John’s built new facilities in an area of the Property previously used for parking, and it demolished its existing facilities. In 2019, the City Assessor determined this was a new use of the Property and notified Saint John’s that the City no longer considered the Property to be tax-exempt. The court of appeals reversed the order of the circuit court denying the City of Milwaukee’s motion to dismiss this action brought by Saint John’s Communities for recovery of unlawful taxes under Wis. Stat. § 74.35 (2019-20), concluding that Saint John’s § 74.35 claim was procedurally deficient because Saint John’s did not first pay the tax before filing its claim. The Supreme Court agreed concluding that Saint John’s claim for recovery of unlawful taxes was procedurally deficient. The language of the statute requires Saint John’s to first pay the challenged tax or any authorized installment payment prior to filing a claim. If Saint John’s has not yet paid the tax, then Saint John’s is not “aggrieved by the levy and collection of an unlawful tax,” and there is no paid tax to “recover.”