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Minocqua rejects Walmart’s tax claim

Town of Minocqua

Walmart is looking to slash in half the real estate taxes for its Minocqua store, a measure the Minocqua town board rejected Tuesday.

Wal-mart Realty Company, represented by the law firm Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin Brown, has filed a claim for excessive assessment for the 2021 tax year against the town.

The law firm contends the town assessor improperly put the fair market value of the store at $10,340,600, resulting in a tax bill of $93,066. It says the 2021 assessment “should be no higher than $5,100,000 as determined by sales of comparable properties.” That would leave a tax bill of $45,917.

The town’s board of review upheld the assessor’s determination, sparking the claim. Unless the town and Walmart come to a compromise, the matter could be headed to circuit court for a ruling. If so, the town’s insurance carrier, Employers Mutual Casualty Insurance Companies of Brookfield, would cover the litigation costs.

In recent years, Walmart, along with other retail chains such as Menards and Walgreens, contend the valuation of their property should be based on comparable stores that are vacant (“dark stores” often found in distressed areas) rather than those that are occupied and thriving. They say it’s not appropriate to assess value based on what’s inside their stores, in addition to the building and land.

Assessors set values on commercial properties based on building and land costs and its use.

Critics on the other side, including the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, say the tactic of using the dark-stores loophole unfairly shifts a greater portion of the property tax burden onto homeowners and small businesses. Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) staunchly opposes closing the loophole.

Town chairman Mark Hartzheim said some law firms have made challenging big box stores’ assessments “a cottage industry.”

The town last year reached a settlement with Walmart over its 2017 assessment, returning some $9,200 to the retail giant. Claims for 2018 and 2019 were withdrawn under the agreement. The returned taxes were apportioned to the elementary school district, Nicolet College, Oneida County and state, as well as the town.

Speed limit reduced

In other actions Tuesday, the board agreed to reduce the speed limit on Cedar Falls Road from 55 mph to 35 mph from Little Rice to north of Cedar Falls Campground and 45 mph from Cedar Falls Campground to the Hazelhurst town line.

Several residents from the Skunk Lake area were at the meeting to lobby for the change. That portion of the road that goes through the town of Hazelhurst is posted at 35 mph and through Little Rice township it’s at 45 mph.

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