Local leaders discuss big box tax implications

Local leaders discuss big box tax implications in Ashwaubenon, December 11, 2017. (WLUK)

ASHWAUBENON (WLUK) -- Provisions in a newly proposed bill could halt the "Dark Store Strategy" in which commercial property owners argue for the same lower tax assessment given to other stores in town that are vacant.

At the heart of the issue: Should a big box store that's operating pay the same property taxes as one that has closed-up shop?

Local municipalities say no but representatives for big box stores say yes.

Big box stores claim they're being singled out by local governments that are fiscally irresponsible.

Monday in Ashwaubenon, local leaders held a "Dark Store Day" news conference to drum up support for legislation that would close the loophole allowing big box stores to pay a lower property-tax bill.

Village of Howard president, Burt McIntyre, said, "I would hate to see local communities get into a conflict with developers and big box stores because they are important to communities but they're not going to be important if they're going to be doing this, if they're going to expect us to pay their bill."

Governor Scott Walker weighed in on the debate Monday and said a solution needs to be found, "I think these are legitimate concerns local governments have and trying to find the best way to help them deal with it."

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce had a different view.

In part, the statement read:

"Local governments and overly aggressive assessors are simply looking for ways to raise taxes on employers because they cannot be fiscally responsible. Senate Bills 291 and 292 will do nothing more than increase the costs to do business in Wisconsin, making the products we buy each and every day more expensive."

Opponents say the pair of bills will hurt struggling brick and mortar stores, not to mention the cost of litigation.

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