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BayCare Aurora drops Green Bay property tax lawsuit

By John McCracken

GREEN BAY – BayCare Aurora, Green Bay’s largest taxpayer, has dropped a 2020 lawsuit against the city alleging improper tax assessment for 2020 property taxes.

The suit was initially filed in August 2020, alleging a difference of almost $73 million in property value for the hospital on Greenbrier Road.

Michael Kozicz, an attorney with the Waukesha law office Rogahn Jones, filed a motion on behalf of the hospital system last month to voluntarily dismiss the case without prejudice and without costs.

City of Green Bay legal representative, Amy Seibel of Seibel Law Offices in Mequon, responded to the motion, stating no qualms with a dismal without costs, but asked Judge John Zakowski to grant the motion for voluntary dismissal with prejudice.

Dismissal with prejudice prohibits BayCare Aurora from refiling a similar complaint against the city.

Seibel said any action on the part of BayCare Aurora to refile a complaint pertaining to the 2020 tax year would cause harm to the city and be dismissed on grounds of untimely action.

“This additional litigation would cause the city to incur unnecessary costs and attorney fees,” said Seibel in a Feb. 3 court response to BayCare Aurora.

Aurora’s legal representation did not object to the dismal with prejudice and without costs, and the lawsuit was formally dismissed Feb. 10 by Zakowski.

Representatives from Seibel and Rogaghn law offices did not respond to requests for comment.

Wisconsin law states a taxpayer must file any cause of action for excessive property tax assessment within 60 days of a Board of Review’s waiver.

The City’s Board of Review waiver was issued June 4, 2020, after Green Bay assessor Russ Schwandt and Aurora’s tax representative, Chad Zeznanski, a Milwaukee-based property tax appraiser, both asked the dispute be taken to circuit court.

“Because of the lack of cooperation from the tax reps, I’m asking that be waived on to circuit court,” said Schwandt at the June 4 Board of Review meeting.

The city legal department declined to comment, citing their practice of not commenting on open or closed litigation.

Big-box retailers, such as Menards, Woodman’s and Walmart, have sued municipalities within Brown County in recent years on the basis of unfair property tax assessment, in what’s known as the darkstore loophole.

“Whenever (large taxpayers) win a substantial reduction in their property taxes, that property tax burden simply gets shifted to everyone else,” said Jerry Deschane, executive director of the League of Wisconsin Municipalities.

Aurora BayCare’s Greenbrier Road facility is a joint venture between BayCare Clinic, the largest physician-owned specialty-care clinic in Northeast Wisconsin, and Advocate Aurora Health, a merger between Advocate Health – the largest Illinois-based health system – and Milwaukee’s Aurora Health, now the 10th largest health system in the country.

“Aurora values the relationship with the Green Bay community we are so privileged to serve,” said a statement from Aurora Health Care to The Press Times. “We also listened to concerns raised by the community and we have decided to drop our legal challenge.”

BayCare Aurora paid its 2020 property taxes for 2845 Greenbrier Road in the full amount of $3,587,853 at the end of January.

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