Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Campaign Cash

Real Estate Interests Back GOP Bill

Change in how assessments done will cut commercial property taxes and hike them for residents, opponents charge.

By - Nov 18th, 2021 10:30 am

Walmart. Photo by Stu pendousmat at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons.

Walmart. Photo by Stu pendousmat at English Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0) or (GFDL), via Wikimedia Commons.

Construction and real estate interests are backing a Republican bill that would change the way local assessors make property tax assessments. But some opponents contend the proposal would cut commercial property taxes and increase residential property taxes.

The measure, Assembly Bill 610, would require municipal assessors to use actual or market rent to determine assessed value, which is the amount set as the basis for property taxes. The bill would also prohibit assessors from using projected rents or other future or anticipated benefits, list prices, or price trends to determine fair market value.

Supporters say the bill effectively requires assessors to base fair market value off the sales of similar properties in the same area and prohibits assessors from using practices that are inconsistent with state Revenue Department guidelines and increase the cost of owning property.

Opponents, which include local governments and assessors, say they oppose the bill because it sharply changes the way assessors determine property value and makes it more difficult for homeowners to get information to convince the assessor that the property was overvalued.

Some local officials, including Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reillysuspect that the bill’s supporters want to increase residential property taxes in order to decrease commercial property taxes, and extend the so-called “dark store loophole” to cover income-producing businesses.

The loophole was created by a 2008 Wisconsin Supreme Court decision that allows the value of operating stores to be based on the sharply lower tax assessments of vacant big-box stores. It decreases tax revenues for local communities, which must cut services or increase taxes on homeowners and renters. Walgreens, Menards, Target, Lowe’s, and others have successfully challenged and slashed their local property tax assessments numerous times throughout the state in recent years, using the loophole.

The new measure, which was introduced by GOP Rep. Robert Brooks, of Saukville, and Republican Sen. Dan Feyen, of Fond du Lac, has been approved by the Assembly and awaits considerations by the Senate.

Brooks, who is a realtor, received $27,720 in campaign contributions from the real estate industry – his top special interest group contributor – and another $4,785 from construction interests between January 2014 and June 2021. Brooks’ top contributors among real estate and construction interests between January 2014 and June 2021 were:

Wisconsin Realtors Association political action committee (PAC), which is one of the groups backing the bill, $3,000,

Terrence and Helen Wall, of Middleton, owners of T. Wall Properties, $1,500,

Realtors Association of South Central Wisconsin PAC, $1,500,

Bruce Bloemer, of Port Washington, president of BruBon Consulting, $1,150.

Feyen, who is a retired printing company employee, accepted $36,480 in campaign contributions from construction interests and $31,031 from the real estate industry between January 2015 and June 2021. Feyen’s top contributors among real estate and construction interests between January 2015 through June 2021 were:

Wisconsin Realtors Association PAC, $5,000,

Dennis and Renee Buechel, of Fond du Lac, owners of Natural Stone Veneers International, $3,800,

Louie Lange III, of Fond du Lac, owner of Commonwealth Development Corp. of America, $3,000,

Concerned Realtors Committee PAC, $3,000.

AB610 supporters:

Wisconsin Realtors Association

Wisconsin Ready Mixed Concrete Association

Wisconsin Independent Businesses, Inc.

Wisconsin Builders Association

Commercial Real Estate Development Association (NAIOP Wisconsin)

Apartment Association of South Central Wisconsin

AB610 Opponents:

Wisconsin Towns Association

Cities of Madison and Milwaukee

Dane County Cities and Villages Association

League of Wisconsin Municipalities

Wisconsin Association of Assessing Officers

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More about the Dark Store Loophole

Read more about Dark Store Loophole here

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