Beaver Dam will settle lawsuits from Walmart after getting caught in the “dark store loophole.”
The Common Council approved the settlement agreements Monday. Walmart filed multiple cases against the city in 2019 and this year to lower the property value on its store and distribution center, which would lower its property taxes. Big box corporations have taken such legal action across the state, sometimes reaching settlements with municipalities and sometimes failing in court.
The settlement approved Monday will not affect the store. The distribution center value will lower and issue a refund of about $112,000. All the lawsuits will be dismissed.
Director of Administration Zak Bloom said Tuesday the city will issue the full refund to Walmart upfront and then charge back the other taxing jurisdictions – which are the county, the school district and the technical college – for their shares in a process through the state Department of Revenue. The city’s share is roughly $45,000. The process will take some time to allow the other entities to budget for the change.
Attorney Ted Waskowski, part of the negotiations for the city, said his thinking was driven by the valuation of distributions centers in Tomah and Menomonie. He said the settlement was a good accomplishment on the numbers.
Waskowski also said it will leave Beaver Dam’s city attorney without any litigation to handle. City Attorney Maryann Schacht has announced she will retire around the end of the year.
A trial was scheduled in the 2019 cases for October.
Municipalities across Wisconsin have faced the issue of the so-called “dark store loophole,” where corporations seek to have their properties values as though they were empty, which would lower their property values and the taxes they pay to support city services while shifting more burden onto other taxpayers. Wisconsin communities, Beaver Dam included, have officially opposed such tactics and have urged the state legislature to close the loophole, which it has not.