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WHEN ASSESSORS ATTACK: Boone County's wars on big employers blast hole in EEZ idea, Pt. 1

3M, Square D, State Farm, Columbia Regional Hospital slammed by Assessor, Commissioners in recent years
 
COLUMBIA, 3/15/12  (Op Ed) --  Columbia needs jobs -- especially manufacturing jobs!    No one has opened a factory here since 1995, REDI reps say.   In their push for a Blight Decree and Enhanced Enterprise Zone (EEZ), they want to roll out the red carpet with property tax breaks
 
But where was REDI -- Regional Economic Development, Inc. -- when Boone County assesssor Tom Schauwecker and Boone County Commissioners, including Karen Miller and Don Stamper, declared war on two of Columbia/Boone County's prized manufacturing companies:  3M and Square D?   
 
Where was the concern for jobs and big employers when Mr. Schauwecker took a $10 million stick to Columbia Regional Hospital and County Commissioners -- who sit on the Board of Equalization that hears property tax disputes -- sided with him?   
 
Where was REDI and the economic development crowd when County Hall went after State Farm Insurance
 
Developers make out and everyone else pays out.  It's a game local government has been running for decades, nowhere more in evidence than with Schauwecker's Wars on large, non-developer employers.  Someone, after all, has to make up the difference so that Stan Kroenke and his peers can keep paying property tax peanuts on their millions of dollars in local holdings.  
 
Mr. Schauwecker has never been shy about enforcing that imperative.   He won the 2008 race for County Assessor with a $60,000 developer-funded war chest and has just re-filed -- for his 24th year in office.  
 
Square-D debacle
 
"A year-old property tax dispute involving a Columbia manufacturer is headed to court," the Columbia Daily Tribune reported in 2001.   "Boone County assessor Tom Schauwecker wants to convince a circuit court judge that a Missouri State Tax Commission ruling lowering the property assessment for Square D Corp. was unfair."  
 
Mr. Schauwecker's move was so rare that County attorney John Patton couldn't remember when an assessor had appealed a tax commission ruling in court.  Meanwhile, the tax money Square D would have paid to schools was tied up in escrow.  
 
"Why all the concern with this assessment?" the Trib asked.  "Schauwecker said this particular case isn’t about winning or losing.  'It’s about what’s right and wrong, and the' state’s evaluation in this case is wrong,' he said."    

Mr. Schauwecker had assessed Square D’s 166,000-square-foot manufacturing facility at 4800 Paris Road nearly three times higher that state tax commission officials when Square D appealed.   In 1999, he handed the firm a property tax bill of $101,162.17, which County Commissioners upheld.  
 
State tax commissioners dropped the bill to $32,182.66. 

"Bart Tichenor, the state tax commission’s chief hearing officer who decided the company’s appeal in July 2000, found that Square D’s appraiser used better examples of comparable sales for valuing the property than Schauwecker used," the Trib reported. 

Rather than continue the expense of pursuing the case in court, Square D ultimately settled with Boone County in Dec. 2001.   They ended up paying significantly higher property taxes. 
 
Mr. Schauwecker and the County Commission didn't stop at Square D.   A few years later, they went after 3M -- the poster child of supposedly "much desired" manufacturing firms.    Before that, they attacked State Farm Insurance and Columbia Regional Hospital.   The cases resurfaced in 2008, when Mr. Schauwecker squared off against his first opponent in 20 years, property appraiser and Ashland City Councilwoman Barbara Bishop.  
 
Now, says REDI, manufacturers need special property tax breaks and Columbia residents need a blight designation to accomodate them.
 
NEXT:  Boone County's war against State Farm
 

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