Ashwaubenon Village Presdient Mary Kardoskee speaks Tuesday, July 24, in favor of the village board authorizing $10,000 toward a campagn to end what’s known as the dark store loophole. Kevin Boneske Photo
By Kevin Boneske
ASHWAUBENON – After already having committed $2,000 toward an issue advocacy campaign by the League of Wisconsin Municipalities to eliminate what’s known as the dark store loophole, the Ashwaubenon village board voted Tuesday, July 24, to increase its contribution to $10,000.
The dark store loophole relates to commercial retailers and manufacturers challenging the assessed value of their properties by claiming they are worth the same or close to the lower assessed value of similar but empty buildings.
Companies which challenged their assessments in court and won have been able to receive a refund with the affected municipalities having to make up the difference with that lost property tax revenue, such as with homeowners having more of the tax burden.
After the effort to eliminate the loophole didn’t pass in the last legislative session that ended this spring, LWM is now seeking to keep the issue in front of candidates running this year for governor and the state legislature with $75,000 of its own money and by asking member communities to also contribute.
LWM Executive Director Jerry Deschane had sent out a letter in June asking each municipality in the state to consider a minimum contribution of $1,200 toward the campaign.
Village President Mary Kardoskee said Oshkosh, which has been affected by the dark store loophole, has challenged all municipalities in the state to each contribute $10,000, which would be matched by that city.
Kardoskee said Ashwaubenon has a “huge commercial area” and could also be affected if the loophole isn’t eliminated.
“Our tax rate could go from $19.65 to $25.70 per $1,000,” she said. “… We do have a lot to lose. It’s huge for us.”
Kardoskee said dark store loophole “falls on our taxpayers, because the taxpayers and the small business people, they don’t have the funds to hire the fancy lawyers to get through that loophole, so they are the ones that suffer.”
Other board members spoke in favor of ending the loophole and contributing another $8,000 to the campaign.
“I think to protect homeowners in this community, I think that’s a good thing to do to OK the extra $8,000,” said Trustee Ken Bukowski.
Trustee Michael Malcheski criticized state lawmakers for not standing up to legislative leaders to eliminate the loophole, which Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce lobbied to keep in place.
“I understand why we need to contribute to this,” Malcheski said. “I have a real problem with elected representatives not standing up to the speaker of the Senate and Assembly and saying ‘We want a vote on this.’ They’re asking us to put up $75,000 more to try and get people to do their job, which they should have done in the first place to protect us…”
Trustee Gary Paul said the village’s representatives in Madison have been “dragging their feet.”
“We have been losing more power within our communities with them not protecting us than I’ve ever seen in the political life that I’ve had around here,” Paul said.
Board members unanimously agreed to use excess funds from 2017 to contribute another $8,000 toward the campaign.