Another year, another blatant cash grab on the part of big box stores. Walmart filed suit Aug. 1 in Barron County Circuit Court against the City of Rice Lake, claiming the property valuation of $13.5 million is excessive and leads to Walmart paying more property tax than is legal.
Walmart’s first legal filing in 2017 claimed the valuation should be $9.1 million. Its 2018 filing claimed the valuation should be $8.1 million. Its 2019 filing claims the valuation is “no more than $5,500,000.”
The City’s valuation of the property has increased by $50,000 between 2016 and 2018.
So how has Walmart devalued its own store by $3.6 million?
This is shameless bullying by a huge corporation over a small municipality.
This is the so-called dark store loophole, which is a legal argument used by major Wisconsin retailers to allow their store’s property tax value to be comparable to empty stores.
This happened before with Menards. In 2017, Rice Lake City Council agreed to refund about $60,000 to Menards from taxes collected for the city, county, schools, etc.
The settlement was the cheaper option in comparison to litigation. What chance does a small city have against a national corporation? Such an effort is not helped by the fact that the Wisconsin Legislature has failed to close the loophole.
Hopefully, the City can continue to hold out against Walmart. Another settlement would be money out of the pocket of each City of Rice Lake property owner, or anyone else who relies on the City’s public infrastructure and services.
When one of the highest-valued properties in town gets a break, the difference in revenue must be shouldered by the rest of the tax base. Or cuts have to be made, such as the firefighter position cut this year. If Walmart gets its way now, what will be cut next?
Editorials are the views of the newspaper as determined by The Chronotype’s editorial board. All editorials are written by one or more members of the board, which consists of Bob Dorrance, Ruth Erickson, Leiah Fundell and Ryan Urban.