Village of River Hills
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Letter to Residents

To the Residents of River Hills

From Steve Anderson, President of River Hills

October 17 2018

Understanding Wisconsin’s Dark Store Problem.

We, in River Hills, should be very concerned about the Dark Store property tax loop holes and court decisions that enable successful large retailers and other businesses to pay property taxes as if their stores were vacant. The result is a significant reduction in their property taxes that is shifted to residential tax payers. Our homes are not assessed as if they were abandoned.  Is there something wrong with this picture?


Several months ago when I first heard mayors and village presidents from Milwaukee County complain about the “Dark Store” tax loophole, I assumed that River Hills with not one square foot of retail business could be not affected.  Wal-Mart, Walgreens, Meijers, and other big box stores are located in other cities where they pay property taxes.  How can this impact my property taxes? WRONG!


Only about 25% of the property tax bill you pay to River Hills is for our village; the rest goes to five other taxing entities: Milwaukee County, Nicolet, Maple Dale-Indian Hill and MATC schools, and the metro sewer system.  All five depend on tax revenue paid by Big Box Retailers to those other taxing entities.  When Walmart pays lower taxes to the Brown Deer, the county’s expenses do not decline, but residential tax payers throughout Milwaukee County (yes, even those in River Hills) must make up the difference.


I asked the County Executive’s office how big is the impact on River Hills residents, but I have not received an estimate.  However, it’s my belief that the amount is significant.  Many of us complain that our property taxes are too high and certainly this is one reason.


The Indiana legislature and Michigan courts have shut the door on dark store tax avoidance strategies.  Senate bills 291 and 292 have been introduced in Madison to do the same thing in Wisconsin.  Unfortunately, and mysteriously, those bills were blocked from being voted on.  How strange that legislators who are elected by voters who pay property taxes allow this tax strategy to continue.


As President of River Hills, I want our residents, to know more about the dark store issue and how it impacts our property taxes. I hope they will express their opinion on this issue with friends and particularly with state law makers.  For more about the Dark Store problem go to: