Sunoco’s dispute over the tax assessment for the shuttered Eagle Point refinery could land in court as soon as the end of this year, West Deptford officials said Thusday night.
Township solicitor Michael Angelini said the case could land in tax court at the end of this year or the beginning of 2012, but nothing has been set in stone yet.
“We’re at the mercy of the tax court and its calendar,” Angelini said.
The assessed value for the 978-acre Eagle Point complex, prior to the county revaluation, was $92,615,500, which produced a property tax bill of about $3.83 million in 2009. Sunoco also owns a number of vacant lots that buffer the refinery, which added up to another $85,971 in property taxes in 2009.
Sunoco hasn’t told the township what the company believes to be the property’s value, which Deputy Mayor Len Daws said makes it difficult to negotiate with the company.
Daws pointed out that the recent county revaluation of all properties in the township showed a slight drop in the assessed value for the Eagle Point complex, but that value is still close to the township’s assessment for the property.
“(The value) didn’t drop as dramatically as what Sunoco’s suggesting in their appeals,” Daws said.
Both Daws and Angelini said that fact would seem to work to the township’s advantage.
Angelini said the township is preparing to fight Sunoco in court, either way.
“What choice does the township–or any municipality–have when a big taxpayer like Sunoco doesn’t want to pay their fair share of taxes?” he said. “We can’t force them to withdraw their appeal and do the right thing.”
Township resident Al Nicolosi questioned whether it made sense to try to settle out-of-court, given the potential expense of attorney’s fees.
Angelini said it’s something the township would consider.
“In this case, we haven’t hit that point,” Angelini said. “If we can resolve it favorably, we’ll resolve it; if not, I guess we’re gong to have to litigate it.”