Dark Store Referendum

Hello Glendale voters:

When you go to vote in the November General Election, you will find an advisory referendum question, asking if you support the passage of legislation that would close a tax loophole that many big box stores have used to lower their tax bills. When these stores artificially lower their tax bills, the burden of city taxes falls to homeowners and small business owners. We pay more so that billion dollar corporations can pay less.

Essentially, the Dark Store loophole allows businesses to appeal their assessed value and have their big box store reassessed to the cost of the land and the bricks and mortar, and not as a thriving business. In many cases, cities have invested millions of dollars in infrastructure to help these companies develop the store and now the companies do not want to pay their fair share of taxes back to the city. Dark Store challenges have come from Walgreens, Menards, Wal-Mart, Target, Lowe’s, and a number of other big box retailers. Glendale has not had a Dark Store challenge, but we could. Fighting these challenges has cost municipalities like Wauwatosa, Franklin and West Allis hundred of thousands of dollars in legal fees. When they lose, the cities then have to refund tens of thousands more in property tax revenue. These cases are straining city budgets around the state.

The Common Council voted unanimously to put this item before Glendale voters. A similar referendum question was on the ballot in West Allis in August and was approved by 91% of the voters there. As Mayor and Council, we have stood with municipal leaders from both parties from all over the state in urging the passage of legislation to close the loophole. 

A “YES” vote on the referendum supports the actions the Mayor and Council have taken on this issue for over a year. A “NO” vote supports the view of the large businesses that the loophole should not be closed because it will cost them more in taxes.

The legislation this current legislative cycle had over 80 cosponsors from both parties, but leadership in the Assembly and Senate did not bring it up for a vote. One of those Senate leaders, Senator Alberta Darling, represents just over half of Glendale. A strong statement from her constituents in November will give us more leverage to encourage her to bring the bill up for a vote when the legislature reconvenes in January.

Please take a few minutes to educate yourselves on this issue. The nonpartisan League of Wisconsin Municipalities has developed a website with information. Also, here is a four-minute video that explains what the Dark Store loophole is: 


In community,
Bryan Kennedy, Ph.D.

Additional resources that support the closing of the loophole:
 -- https://darkstoreloopholes.org/
-- https://www.wisconsingazette.com/news/campaign-launched-to-close-dark-store-loopholes-in-wisconsin/article_70b9201a-abb5-11e8-9c7e-ab0efb2a2d65.html

 -- https://www.jsonline.com/story/communities/southwest/news/west-allis/2018/08/14/election-2018-west-allis-voters-demand-closing-dark-store-loophole/985228002/

An opposing view from Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, a trade group that represents large business interests in the state:
 -- https://www.wmc.org/news/two-minute-drill-dark-store-legislation-to-hurt-business-climate/