Wind River H-D squares off with zealous assessor

Publish Date: 
Jul 15, 2014

LAWTON, Okla. - A powersports dealer protesting his property tax assessment is one of several businesses in the middle of a county government dispute over the ROI of tax lawsuits.

Comanche County commissioners are concerned about the cost of lawsuits the county assessor has filed in disputes over property taxes.

The assessor filed suit against Wind River Harley-Davidson and the Comanche County Excise Board after the business owner won an appeal. The assessor had changed the dealership value from $2 million to $4 million, which would bring in an extra $20,000 in annual tax revenue for the county.

Dealer principal Matt Ratliff said the $4 million appraisal is not based only on the land and building, but also the franchise. "We paid for Harley-Davidson. You take Harley-Davidson out of the building [and] it is not worth anything [near] what we paid for it," he said.

Commissioner Gail Turner said the lawsuit defies common sense. "We feel like the attorney fees in this situation will be more than what the county could reap on the difference if we win the case," she said. To date, Assessor Richard Strickland has racked up $93,000 in legal fees for just two cases. To fight the Wind River battle, it will cost $195 per hour for legal fees and it will cost $200 per hour for the three other cases, according to KSWO.

Strickland said he is only doing his job and is going off of the fair cash value of the targeted businesses. In the case of Wind River, he said that is a number directly from their own appraisal. He said even if the Wind River lawsuit costs $10,000, it still brings in an extra $20,000 in taxes every year. There is no court date for the case yet.

The board had denied funds for an attorney for the assessor's office a couple of weeks ago. They were told Monday that the law requires them to approve the funding. The county attorney said state statutes give the assessor has the right to appeal excise board decisions. The assessor also has the right to use his budget's funds to hire an attorney.

From the Dealernews wires