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Ameristar settles for a slightly lower tax bill

Published 11:38 am Thursday, July 10, 2014

Ameristar Casino’s property tax bill for 2014 will be a bit closer to Warren County’s initial calculation than it argued for in its appeal in circuit court, according to terms of a settlement reached Wednesday.

The casino will pay taxes on a true value of $168 million, or $10 million less than calculated last summer when the tax rolls were OK’d by county supervisors. Lawyers for the casino had argued for a $136.2 million value. Court briefs didn’t specify what the tax bill would be on Ameristar’s 21 real property parcels in Warren County, though the settled amount appeared to put it closer to $3 million instead of the $2.5 million indicated in the lawsuit’s original complaint.

Previous appeals from the 2011-13 tax years were thrown out in the settlement, signed by Circuit Judge M. James Chaney. No additional cost is to be added to the casino’s retaining wall through 2017, and any improvements in excess of $10 million between now and then is to be valued for tax purposes using normal methods, the agreement read. Chaney stipulated each side was to bear its own legal fees.

The case was one of two tax bill appeals for 2014 filed in circuit court.

Riverwalk Casino, which, like Ameristar, had sued the county over property taxes in the past four years, is asking the court to lower the true value on its Warrenton Road gaming venue and hotel to $28.6 million. The county had it valued it at $45.3 million on the current tax rolls. Calculation methods form the heart of the casino’s arguments; legal counsel for the casino had argued in a 2010 case that Warren County Tax Assessor’s Office used formulas that were inconsistent with those used to assess casinos of the Gulf Coast of similar size.

That appeal goes before Chaney next March, after the county approves its 2014-15 budget. Two dates, March 23, 2015 and March 30, 2015 have been set aside for trial.

Supervisors meet through Friday to equalize this year’s property tax rolls. Each session is set for 9 a.m., after which rolls for each of the five supervisor districts are viewable in the chancery clerk’s office. Taxpayers have 30 days starting Monday to formally object to values placed on their home, business or agricultural land.