Foxconn appeals Green Bay property value assessment as city crafts 2023 budget

Green Bay revaluation leads to lower tax rate

A white sign with the word "Foxconn" on it hangs on a concrete building.
A sign is displayed outside of a building in downtown Milwaukee that Foxconn said would be the company’s North American headquarters. Angela Major/WPR

Foxconn Technology Group said it believes the value of its Green Bay property is less than what it was assessed at, which could lead to a showdown in court to determine the actual taxable value.

The company is expected to sue the city of Green Bay to appeal new property values on its six-story downtown office building. That’s after the city revalued property for the first time in 18 years to stay in compliance with state regulations. As a result, many property owners saw their assessed values increase.

Foxconn’s WaterMark building at 301 N. Washington St. saw its value rise by 23.2 percent from $6.8 million to $8.4 million. The new assessed value is almost $1 million less than the company paid for the property in 2018.

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At that time, Foxconn promised to bring hundreds of jobs to Green Bay by creating an innovation center on the property.

While plans for an innovation center never materialized, the company does have several tenants in the WaterMark and views the property as something that could be useful down the road.

Similarly, plans for a large flat-screen manufacturing plant in Mount Pleasant that promised 13,000 jobs never came to fruition either. Foxconn is producing data servers at its Mount Pleasant facility, which created 579 jobs during 2020.

Foxconn wasn’t the only property owner to appeal its revaluation in the city of Green Bay. The disputes over property value come as city officials work to finalize the 2023 budget.

Foxconn dispute

At the Green Bay Board of Review meeting last month, City Assessor Russ Schwandt said the city had been in discussions with Foxconn regarding the appeal process.

“We have agreed, along with the appellant, that it would be best that it not be heard here and move directly to circuit court,” Schwandt said.

The process is expected to play out in Brown County Circuit Court, but no lawsuit had been filed as of Monday evening. The city assessor and city attorney’s offices declined to comment, while Foxconn released a statement regarding the proceedings.

Since Foxconn purchased the building in 2018, the company says it has paid more than $320,000 in property taxes.

“The WaterMark remains a strategic asset to the company and we are extremely grateful to our current tenants who greatly add to the vibrancy of the downtown community,” the statement read. “Just as any other business or homeowner may exercise the same right, Foxconn is now working through the parameters established by state law to evaluate the property’s actual taxable value.”

In documents filed with the city, the company said the value of its Green Bay property is about $5.1 million, which is roughly $3 million below the assessed value. If Foxconn wins its appeal, it could save the company tens of thousands of dollars in local property taxes.

Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich said Foxconn’s appeal is disappointing as the company hasn’t provided the thousands of jobs it promised to bring to Wisconsin or the hundreds it pledged to bring to Green Bay.

“It’s fair to say that everybody here in the city — and in the state — is pretty disappointed with what Foxconn has offered us, especially in comparison to what’s been promised,” he said. “… It’s unfortunate to see this multibillion-dollar, multinational corporation make all these promises, deliver nothing and then challenge the taxes that are assessed on their property.”

Budget process

Because property values and home prices have changed a lot in the last 18 years, Genrich said some Green Bay residents felt a bit of “sticker shock” when they received their assessed value.

However, the assessed values are generally close to the market value of the properties in question, he said.

That overall increase in property value enabled the city to decrease its projected tax rate by roughly 20 percent for the 2023 budget, but it doesn’t necessarily mean property owners will see reduced taxes as a result.

The mayor’s proposed budget includes a 6.79 percent spending increase. The budget would increase funding for public safety, create seven new firefighter positions and fully fund police body cameras for the first time.

“A lot of costs are increasing and we’ve got to incorporate that into our budget, while maintaining the services that people rely on and expect from the city,” Genrich said. “We’ve been very proud of the fact that we’ve invested in public safety over the last few budgets that I’ve introduced. That’s the case here as well.”

Members of the Common Council discussed the budget last Thursday during the finance committee meeting.

Some council members advocated for using federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to reduce the property tax burden.

“A big complaint I get from constituents is that we did not use a lot of ARPA funds to benefit local tax dollars being spent,” Alder Jennifer Grant said. “… I think we do need to allow a softer blow to our community members because the reassessment is going to be an adjustment.”

Others argued that one-time funding shouldn’t be used for a budget item that will be recurring year-after-year.

“We have to take care of our city, and that costs money. And I can’t see robbing Peter to pay Paul to get this done,” Alder William Galvin said. “So I’m not in favor of taking ARPA money and using it for stuff that we need to learn to be responsible and budget for.”

Genrich said increasing the amount of revenue the state government distributes to municipalities could help local governments better fund public safety and infrastructure.

If the state of Wisconsin had kept shared revenue on pace with inflation over the last 20 years, he said Green Bay would receive $24 million more from the state than it currently does. That would account for about 20 percent of the city’s budget.

“That ($24 million) could do some dramatic things in terms of investing in our infrastructure, public safety, bringing down borrowing costs (and) cutting property taxes,” Grenrich said.

The Common Council will vote on the final 2023 budget Thursday.