Mount Pleasant became the latest municipality to join the fight against a loophole allowing retail giants like Menards and Walgreens to reduce their taxes by millions across the state, after signing a resolution calling on state legislators to end the practice.

Big-box retailers like Menards and Walgreens are using what is being called the “dark store” loophole to reduce property taxes on their buildings by having them assessed like they were vacant buildings, rather than ones with ongoing business.

Opponents of the loophole argue the property tax burden is not just reduced on these buildings, but rather shifted to homeowners and small businesses.

Over the years, these types of assessments have left the village losing $100,000 a year in tax revenue, said Village Assessor Dan McHugh. If it continues, the village will see a loss equal to 60 homes removed from the tax base.

“We want to stop this and hopefully get some legislation passed to stop this from spreading and  further eroding of tax base” McHugh said.

The village voted unanimously to approve a resolution Monday, which  urges state representatives to pass legislation ending the “dark store” loophole.

“I think this is extremely important, because every dollar the commercial people don’t have to pay it only gets pushed onto the residents,” said Village Trustee John Hewitt, “ Which is wrong.”

Right now, corporations are engaged in lawsuits around the country applying the “dark store” argument in trying to lower their property taxes.

Two pieces of legislation are being hammered out by the Wisconsin League of Municipalities, that will be introduced to the State legislature this year.

One aims to overturn the Wisconsin Supreme Court decision in Walgreens v. The City of Madison. A decision that allows large retailers to have a property assessed at a lower value for property tax purposes, only to sell the property for a higher price.

The other, will be similar to the legislation passed by the Indiana State Legislature in 2016 aimed at stopping the “dark store” assessment practice.

“Indiana has, in essence, stopped this from happening,” said McHugh.

Village President Garski said he recently met with State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and gave him a copy of the resolution the board approved tonight. Garski said Vos indicated to him he will work on the issue.

 

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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.