County steps up fight with Raytheon over taxes

2013-09-22T00:00:00Z 2013-09-22T19:23:47Z County steps up fight with Raytheon over taxesBy Joe Ferguson Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Pima County has authorized spending an additional $50,000 in its fight with Raytheon Missile Systems over the tax value of its properties here.

County Assessor Bill Staples is fighting another appeal by the area’s largest private employer, which believes the $40 million assessment of the 18 buildings its owns in the area is too high.

At stake for the county is hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax revenue for the two years’ worth of property valuations Raytheon is disputing — 2011 and 2012.

On Tuesday, the Pima County Board of Supervisors signed off on Staples’ request to renew a $50,000 contract with Tempe-based Brekan-Nava Group consultants, but with the stipulation that the money comes out of the assessor’s budget, not the general fund.

The county has paid the consultant only about $30,000 for the original $50,000 contract, but Staples believes the contract needs to be extended to cover the cost of future legal proceedings.

The Brekan-Nava Group has primarily advised Staples’ office on the valuation of Raytheon’s buildings, the assessor said. But he notes the consultation has offered help on several other valuations for large commercial properties.

To date, the fight with Raytheon over valuations has cost the county roughly $10,000 in legal fees, Staples said.

The dispute between the County Assessor’s Office and Raytheon dates to 2009, when the county sent a $79 million valuation notice to Raytheon.

Staples concedes the initial valuation was too high and was a mistake.

“That valuation notice should not have gone out,” Staples said.

Staples says the figure should have been closer to $40 million.

Raytheon appealed to the State Board of Equalization, based on the valuation of similar properties, and the board decided in October 2011 the value of the properties was $22.5 million.

The legal case was eventually settled in Superior Court and would include both the 2009 and the 2010 valuations for the Raytheon buildings. For both years, the final valuations were about $35 million for each year.

It is too early to know whether Raytheon plans on fighting the 2013 valuation, Staples said. Those valuations have recently been mailed out.

Raytheon pays about $130 million in state and local taxes annually.

Before the vote, county Supervisor Ally Miller questioned why the county would continue a fight with Raytheon while pursuing a number of initiatives designed to help Raytheon expand here in Tucson.

Supervisor Richard Elías noted Staples takes an extra oath of office as an elected official requiring him to pursue best possible valuations for the county.

John Patterson, Raytheon’s public relations director, would not comment on the renewal of the contract, citing a policy not to discuss ongoing legal matters.

Raytheon had about 10,300 employees in Southern Arizona at the beginning of the year, according to the Star 200 survey.

Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at jferguson@azstarnet.com or 573-4346.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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