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Milwaukee County mayors say "dark store strategy" increasing residential property tax

Mayors from all over Milwaukee County held a press conference Monday to say big retail chains like Walgreens are using a strategy that isn't available to homeowners or small businesses to cut their property taxes.

It's called the dark store strategy. It allows working stores to pay taxes based on the value a vacant store would have in that space. Those in favor of the rule say most of those buildings are vacant when they're sold, and the real problem is brick and mortar stores are losing tax value as amazon takes their market share. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says cities all over the state have lost tens of millions of dollars to retailers challenging their rates, and homeowners receive higher rates as a result.

"Every time a large out of state retailer gets their tax bill reduced, unfairly we believe, what happens is you've got residential homeowners and other small businesses who see their tax bills go up because the spending isn't changing," Barrett said. "The spending has already been set by the policy makers at the local level."

Mayors say they brought this up today because property taxes are now coming in the mail, and lawmakers will be back in Madison in January with limited time to outlaw the dark store strategy for 2019.

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