Walmart has filed more lawsuits against the city of Beaver Dam seeking to lower its property assessments and get a refund on the property taxes already paid.
Walmart has a store in Beaver Dam, 120 Frances Lane, and a distribution center, 115 Distribution Way. The store is valued at $9.06 million, and the distribution center is valued at $40.72 million. In four lawsuits filed this month, Walmart claims that the store should actually be valued at $4.96 million, and the distribution center should be valued $27.5 million.
Lowering the property values would lower Walmart’s property taxes, shifting more of the tax burden onto other owners in the city. Walmart has already paid roughly $1.2 million in taxes at the current values for 2020, according to county records, but is seeking a refund if necessary. The company made similar claims in lawsuits filed in 2019, for which an October trial is scheduled.
Municipalities around Wisconsin have faced the so-called “dark store loophole,” where large corporations seek to have their high-traffic stores valued as if they were empty buildings.
Some communities in Wisconsin have reached settlements with companies over assessments, but others have won in court against companies that brought legal action to lower their taxes.
“They have not been successful,” said Mayor Becky Glewen. “We have comparables that show they won’t be successful in this either.”
Glewen said a change would be concerning because large companies and businesses like Walmart have a lot of needs that the city provides for and use protective services and infrastructure at a higher rate than residents. She said there would be a shift of a lot of taxes onto individual homeowners and that while businesses are trying to streamline, so are homeowners.
“I believe everybody has to play their part in the community to make it a community,” Glewen said.
Glewen also emphasized that Walmart has already received funds from the city through a tax increment finance district. In 2003, the city struck a deal with Walmart to offer $6.18 million in incentives to Walmart to build the distribution center, including a lump sum of $1.38 million and 20 annual payments of $200,000.
The city has not yet filed a response in the new court cases.
Several municipalities, including Beaver Dam, have officially urged the state legislature to take action on the “dark store loophole,” but the loophole remains open. Glewen said she sees the issue going through the courts now.
Rep. Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, and Sen. John Jagler, R-Watertown, did not respond to requests for comment for this story.