South Portland and its largest taxpayer are once again in disagreement over the company’s property taxes.

General Growth Properties, the owner of the Maine Mall, is appealing the city’s assessments on a dozen properties for the 2009 tax year.

The Chicago-based company is arguing that the city overvalued the properties by almost 25 percent when it assessed their taxable value at $252.9 million, so it was overbilled by almost $925,000 for property taxes.

A year ago, the city prevailed over General Growth Properties before the state Board of Property Tax Review in a dispute over the company’s 2006 assessment. The city had assessed company’s property at $260 million while an appraiser for the mall put the value around $190 million.

The company did not pursue an appeal in Superior Court.

Jon Goldberg, a Portland attorney for General Growth Properties, said the company is preparing to submit its own appraisal for 2009, after which the city will have its own appraisal done.

“It would be somewhat premature for me to tell you all the areas that are in dispute,” he said.

Craig Gorris, general manager of the mall, said he cannot comment on an ongoing appeal.

City Assessor Elizabeth Sawyer turned down General Growth Properties’ request for an abatement last summer. The next step for the company is the city’s Board of Assessment Review, which is expected to hold hearings in April.

Sawyer said her 2009 assessment took into account factors including the continuing vacancy of the former Filene’s building and the economy’s effect on leasing patterns, occupancy levels and income.

“Based on all information we had, we put a valuation on that,” she said. “That’s what we’re comfortable with. We believe we can defend it.”

Sawyer said she is disappointed that the city may face another costly defense of General Growth Properties’ assessment. The dispute over the 2006 assessment cost the city more than $70,000.

Mayor Tom Coward said he cannot predict the outcome of the dispute but believes the city is on “pretty solid ground.”

He said South Portland’s finances are sound, but other taxpayers will feel the effect if the city has to rebate more than $900,000 to General Growth Properties.

“If a major taxpayer’s share of taxes drops, everybody else’s go up. It’s a zero-sum game,” he said.

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:

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