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H-F High, Flossmoor schools watching Meijer tax appeal closely

The Flossmoor Meijer has generated a considerable amount of tax revenue for the community since opening in 2016, but property tax appeals by the retailer are a recurring threat to the budgets and plans of local school districts.

The Flossmoor Meijer has filed a property tax appeal that would take a considerable amount of money away from local schools. The big box retailer recently submitted a multi-year request to the Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board. If successful, the appeal would result in a sizable refund paid by District 161 and lower the amount the district can borrow through bonds.

This is not the first adjustment Meijer has requested for the Flossmoor store. District 161 Associate Superintendent Frances LaBella said that a “2017 appeal resulted in the refunding of $325,555 back to Meijer.” 

If Meijer’s appeal for 2020, 2021 and 2022 is successful, District 161 could be exposed to a potential $437,000 yearly refund. The amount that the district is able to borrow through the sale of bonds would be reduced by a similar amount. 

Homewood-Flossmoor High School reached a settlement with Meijer when it appealed the 2017-2018-2019 triennial “in a manner which avoided any refunds for tax years 2018 and 2019 entirely, with only a 2017 refund from District 233 of $319,015,” said Lawrence Cook, chief school business official. “This was only about one-third of what the refunds might have been had we not settled.”

H-F is again trying to reach a compromise with Meijer. Cook said presently, “The estimated potential refunds of District 233 taxes on the Meijer’s appeals from the latest 2020-2021-2022 triennial would total $1,045,582.”

Petrarca, Gleason, Boyle & Izzo, the firm representing District 161 and District 233, has filed a request to intervene in the matter on behalf of District 161 and Homewood-Flossmoor High School.

According to LaBella, District 161 spends a considerable amount on legal fees by defending property tax appeals and objections. Considering how much is at stake, arguing against the Meijer appeal is a necessary expense.

Meijer, a Michigan-based grocery store and retail chain, has a history of filing property tax appeals as a way to reduce costs and increase profits. “Dark store theory” is the name given to some big box retailers’ efforts to lower property taxes. By seeking lower assessments on buildings suited for only their uses, corporations can sometimes reclaim tax dollars that school districts count on. 

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