The Beaver Dam Common Council approved a resolution supporting legislation to close the so-called “dark store” tax loophole.
The loophole, which cities across Wisconsin have been strongly organizing against, allows companies to have their properties assessed for taxes as if the properties were vacant. The issue is associated with big-box stores in the state working through the legal system to reduce their property tax bills.
John Somers, director of administration, said that locally Wal-Mart did receive a reduction in its taxes after approaching and working with the city.
City officials said they would expect more situations like that in the future.
“While it might be box stores right now, and that’s where we’ve seen it start to come in, it will, once there’s success, that will continue, and it will continue to snowball,” said Mayor Becky Glewen. “We know that from other communities already.”
The League of Wisconsin Municipalities has worked to get local governments to unite on the issue as a lobby. Several across the state have put referendums in front of voters to advise officials to close the loophole. The state legislature is likely the only remedy.
The resolution formally urges legislators and the governor to take action on the issue. The council voted 12-1 in favor of the resolution, with Kevin Burnett opposed. Council member Therese Henriksen was absent.
“Don’t we sort of come off as being anti-business if we have a formal resolution for this?” Burnett said. “We could all be in favor of it. We know that it’s not fair, but do we need a formal resolution that’s going on the books saying ‘businesses beware’?”
Council member Kara Nelson said the resolution was about protecting local taxpayers.
“I think it’s not so much appearing to want to drive out big businesses like that,” she said. “It’s sending a message to our legislators that we don’t want to be victims and don’t want our taxpayers to be victims of a loophole that these corporations could be abusing. It’s a message that we want that loophole to close so that our taxpayers will not fall victim to that.”