TWIN FALLS — The Twin Falls County Commissioners will decide in the coming month whether to approve a settlement in a dispute over Chobani’s property value that will otherwise go to court.
County Assessor Brad Wills presented a proposed agreement between the company and the county to the commissioners Tuesday morning; the commissioners voted to table the matter and discuss it in an executive session sometime in the next few weeks, as only a redacted version of the agreement was available at the public meeting.
Chobani appealed the county assessor’s $495 million valuation before the Twin Falls County Commission in 2017, saying the assessed value was $216 million higher than it should be: The company argued its Twin Falls plant was actually worth $176 million.
The Idaho Board of Tax Appeals modified the company’s value to nearly $393 million in April of 2018. The following July, Chobani took the case to district court.
The number for 2017 provided by Wills to commissioners on Tuesday was significantly lower than the Board of Tax Appeals’ modified value: slightly more than $249 million. That value was determined through a different methodology than the initial assessed value, taking into account land value, the buildings themselves, and the company’s “personal property,” which includes machinery and equipment.
“What we found is it really isn’t a numbers game, it’s a methodology game: Let’s find a method we can use in the future and not worry strictly about number,” Wills said. “After going through all of this process, I believe this is a fair settlement.”
An attorney for Chobani said over the phone Tuesday that the company also believes the $249 million valuation is “fair.”
Now, the ball is in the county commissioners’ court: If they decide to bind the county to the agreement, the matter will be settled. If they reject the settlement, the case will go ahead to court.
The commissioners decided unanimously to postpone the vote to give themselves more time to discuss the settlement and examine the numbers and methodology behind it.
“I think it’s fair so we have a full picture,” Commissioner Jack Johnson said. “Without seeing an unredacted version, it’s hard for me to wrap my head around that.”
“This is a big deal,” Commissioner Don Hall added.