Common council to hear proposed Walmart settlement

The City of Watertown could put an end to the “dark store” assessments following a vote Tuesday.

The Watertown Common Council will vote on a settlement agreement with Walmart on its ongoing property tax assessment litigation Tuesday at 7 p.m. in City Hall. This agreement follows multiple-year litigation over the assessed value of the box store’s property as a “dark store.”

“I’m hopeful we can get to a point of agreement and just move forward,” Mayor Emily McFarland said. “Although we would be settling, it is a nominal amount to what other municipalities are paying. If we have to do something in terms of settling, this is a comfortable place for us.”

The proposed settlement would give Walmart the assessed value of $9,859,000 for its Watertown store property for the 2017, 2018 and 2019 tax years and the refund of the taxes paid on the “excess value” of $813,200. The proposed agreement would give Walmart a total refund of $59,139.21 and a waiver of the recovery of interest.

Other Wisconsin cities have also recently settled their dark store disputes outside of court. The Village of Somers in Kenosha settled with Walmart on reductions in assessed values totaling $24,724.92 for 2017 through 2019 in August 2019, according to The Journal Times. The City of Oshkosh also settled with Walmart in November 2019 and payed more than $215,000, according to WHBY radio station.

Walmart was contesting its properties assessed values should be valued if the property were an empty facility, or a “dark store.” This strategy has been implemented by many companies, Walmart being perhaps the most well-known, as a way to alleviate the tax burden for the property. Critics argue that this strategy shifts the tax burden to homeowners and other property owners.

Other local businesses have also used the strategy, including WisPak, which filed for a reassessment of its assessed values back in September of last year.

Published by the Watertown Daily Times

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