JAY — Verso Corp. has jumped the town and state tax appeal processes to ask the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to determine the taxable value of the Androscoggin Mill and property in Jay for the tax year 2015.

The company also skipped the state’s tax appeal process for the 2013 and 2014 tax years, and asked the Bankruptcy Court to determine the value. A hearing on those two years before the Maine Board of Property Review has been rescheduled twice at Verso’s request, with consent from Jay officials.

The Jay Board of Assessors voted unanimously in March to grant a partial abatement for the 2015 tax year and reduced the taxable valuation of Verso Androscoggin’s paper mill and associated property from $572.7 million to $424.3 million. The figures factor in tax-exempt property. The tax abatement was for $886,157.

Verso claimed it should have been valued at no more than $340 million and the company should have received a higher abatement.

The next step in the process would have been for the company to appeal the assessors’ decision to the town’s Board of Assessment Review within 60 days of the March 24 assessors’ decision. If Verso did not like that board’s decision, it could then appeal to the Maine Board of Property Tax Review.

Verso and 26 of its subsidiaries, including Verso Androscoggin, which owns the Jay mill, are in the midst of reorganization under Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Verso claims that the court determining the value and tax refund due on all three years is pertinent to its reorganization plan. It also claims the Bankruptcy Court has the authority to make the determination under the federal bankruptcy code.

Town attorneys have opposed Verso’s motion, claiming the determination of the valuation and tax appeal belong in Maine. It also claims Bankruptcy Court does not have the authority to make the decision.

Jay has spent more than $300,000, including legal fees and appraisals, over the past couple of years related to the dispute with Verso over the valuation of the paper mill. The cost is expected to rise by the time the process is concluded in Bankruptcy Court or in Maine. Jay’s attorneys are working with Delaware attorneys to assist them at the Bankruptcy Court level.

Verso claims the town owes it about $11.4 million in tax refunds, plus interest on those funds for overvaluing the paper mill and overtaxing the company the past three years, according to its motion filed in the Delaware court.

If the court sides with Verso and grants the refunds, the town does not have the $11.4 million to repay the company, Jay Town Manager Shiloh LaFreniere said Friday.

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