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Yellowstone County distributes protested taxes

Yellowstone County distributes protested taxes

With the settlement of several major tax disputes, millions of dollars in protested taxes have been distributed throughout Yellowstone County in one-time payments.

Yellowstone County Finance Director Scott Turner said on Tuesday that 84 percent of the tax disputes in the county have been resolved.

“That’s good news,” he said during a briefing at the county commission meeting.

At the highest, the county had more than $40 million in protested taxes being held and mostly unavailable to various taxing jurisdictions by June 2013, he said.

With settlements between the state of Montana’s Department of Revenue and several major companies, the amount of protested taxes is down to about $6.385 million in Yellowstone County, Turner said.

Prior to major tax disputes beginning in 2009, protests ran between $6 million to $8 million, he said.

The settlements led to the distribution of about $10.6 million to the county, city of Billings, city of Laurel, various school districts, state funds and other funds, he said.

The county received about $3.5 million, which will go to the general fund, road fund, sheriff’s office, county attorney, MetraPark and other funds based on the mill levies, Turner said.

School District 2 in Billings will receive about $5 million, but $4.8 million of the amount will be used to repay loans the district took to keep operating while the protests were ongoing, Turner said.

Billings will receive about $2.7 million, while Laurel will get about $30,000.

Three of the recently resolved tax disputes involved Charter Communications, which protested tax years 2010-2013; Verizon Wireless, which protested years 2009-2013; and Phillips 66, which protested years 2010-2012.

Turner said Charter protested a total of $11.35 million and received a refund of $2 million, or about 18 percent, with its settlement, Turner said.

Verizon protested a total of $4.2 million and received a refund of $1.1 million or about 27 percent, while Phillips 66 protested a total of about $6.48 million and received a refund of $2 million, or about 32 percent.

Tax protests remaining unresolved include about $3.29 million from Phillips 66 for 2013, $3 million from ATT Mobility and about $7,200 from other protests, Turner said.

While it is good to have the disputes resolved and taxes disbursed, Turner said, there will be an overall decrease in the county’s base value because of the settlements. That means one mill levied will raise fewer tax dollars.

Turner said in preparing the county budgets, he estimated about a 1 percent increase in the certified value. The net result of the tax settlements means the value will increase about a half of one percent, he said.

“That wasn’t unexpected,” Turner said.

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Federal Court, Yellowtone County Reporter

Federal court and county reporter for The Billings Gazette.

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