Mayors and village presidents from Brown County and the Fox Valley gathered for “Dark Store Day,” a day created to raise awareness to the dark store loophole.

It’s a tax avoidance strategy by commercial retailers such as Menards, Walgreens, and CVS Who ask to pay property taxes equal to stores that are vacant or boarded up, when in reality, their stores are booming with business.

“Somebody will come in and they will pay $8 million dollars to buy a piece of property, construct a brand new store and say, well it’s really only worth $2 million,” said City of Appleton Mayor, Tim Hanna.  He says this tax strategy is used all over the country, not just in Wisconsin.

Hanna said, “In Appleton, we’ve refunded close to a million dollars in taxes, and that has to come from somewhere.”

That somewhere, is from homeowners and small businesses, who are picking up the “tax tab” from the big-box stores.

“There’s a lot of people out there that aren’t aware of it,” said Ashwaubenon Village President, Mary Kardoskee.  “A home in Ashwaubenon worth approximately $140,000, the taxes would go up about $1000.”

Acccording to State Representative David Steffen, “If we don’t address this issue, this will likely be the largest property tax shift in state history.”

The League of Wisconsin Municipalities says there are two bills they are being addressed in Madison that they hope will pass in the legislature in the coming early next year.  In the meantime, they need additional support to stop this unfair tax shift.

Steffen says, “I believe we have an opportunity to make this happen, but we need action, and we need it now.”

They say, the best way to help is to contact your state representatives and urge them to close the loophole.