The Study Committee on Property Tax Assessment Practices met for the first time on Aug. 7, 2018. The committee, chaired by Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon) and Rep. Scott Allen (R-Waukesha), is tasked with reviewing and recommending changes to current property tax assessment practices in Wisconsin, including the role of comparable sales and market segments in assessments.
Property tax assessments of retailers based on comparable sales, or what municipalities have been calling the “dark store loophole,” was a prevalent issue in the legislature’s 2017-18 session. While the Republican majority opted not to act on the issue, Democrats offered several proposals to close the “loophole.” Initially, the set of bills related to property tax assessments (AB 386/SB 292 – dark stores & AB 387/SB 291 – triple net lease) had bipartisan support. Because legislators failed to find a compromise between business groups and municipalities, the bills died, and the legislature opted for a study committee to study the issue further.
Senate President Roger Roth (R-Appleton) led off the study committee by saying he was hoping the bipartisan committee could hammer out a solution to the “dark store” issue. Roth was followed by the Department of Revenue (DOR), who gave an overview of how they handle assessments and assessors. Olsen brought up the idea of more training for assessors. DOR said they’d be open to that idea, but by and large they follow the law the legislature sets forth.
The Mayor of Hartford and a city assessor from Wauwatosa followed, advocating for closing what they characterized as the unfair dark store “loophole.”
Next came representatives from Walgreens and Meijer. The Walgreens Senior Manager discussed the triple net lease bill from last session. The Meijer Property Tax Manager further explained how the municipalities’ rhetoric does not always compare apples to apples and does not apply to how the market and assessments actually work.
The committee closed with a question of who else they should bring in to help them learn more about the issue. Committee members seemed interested in taking a deeper dive into the actual legislation, including the amendments from last session. Sen. Janis Ringhand (D-Evansville) requested to hear from more municipalities.
The committee plans to meet again on Sept. 6, Oct. 9, and Nov. 28.