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Between a Little Rock and A Hard Place
by Ron Davis

A missed deadline for filing a tax-levy appeal will likely end up costing an Arkansas shopping center owner several thousand dollars.

The shopping center, located in North Little Rock, is owned by Pike Avenue Development Co., Inc., and the levy is based on the estimated value of the shopping center property.

That value, however, derived from an appraisal by county tax officials, represents a 232 percent increase over the previous appraisal, made just a few years ago. So the owner of the shopping center appealed.

But a county court agreed with the tax officials and ordered the shopping center owner to pay the property tax at the higher rate. The shopping center owner subsequently appealed to a higher court, challenging the assessorís revaluation.

Thatís when time became a significant factor. The shopping center owner did not file the appeal until 41 days after the county court issued its order, and a county rule requires that such an appeal be filed within 30 days of the court order. The higher court judge therefore dismissed the appeal.

The shopping center owner then appealed to the Arkansas Supreme Court, pointing out that the Arkansas Constitution provides for a six-month period in which to appeal a property-tax assessment. In fact, the state and county are in direct conflict over the deadlines for filing such appeals, and the shopping center owner argued that state law should dictate in such a case.

The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled, however, that the original appeal was not timely and therefore could not be honored.

Explained the justices, "Confronted with the clear conflict between the county rule and the state law, the county judge could find no perceivable public policy reason for the state legislature to provide a six-month period to appeal from a county court order. Thus, he concluded that the county rule governed this appeal and superseded all portion of state law. We agree.... In this case, neither the record nor a proper appeal was filed with the 30-day period. Therefore, the court correctly dismissed the appeal." (Pike Ave. Development Co. v. Pulaski County, 37 S.W.3d 177 [Ark. 2001])

Decision: February 2001
Published: April 2001



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