Finance Committee discusses suit against city by Menard, Inc.
Company challenges assessment for Rhinelander store
BY KEVIN BONESKE
Rhinelander’s Finance, Wage and Salary Committee took no action Tuesday after it went into closed session to discuss a civil suit being brought against the city by the Eau Claire-based Menard, Inc. over the property taxes assessed against the Menards store in the city for 2016.
In the suit, filed with the Oneida County clerk of courts office by the Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin and Brown law firm in Milwaukee, Menard, Inc. alleges the total assessed value of the company’s property at 2221 N. Stevens St. for 2016 of $8.4 million, as set by the city assessor and affirmed by the city’s Board of Review, is more than $2 million higher than the property’s fair market value, which the company claims was no higher than $6,131,581 as of Jan. 1, 2016.
“Based on the applicable assessment ratio and the tax rate of $22.84826 per $1,000 of assessed value, the correct property tax on the property for 2016 is no higher than $140,095.58,” the suit states.
The company claims the 2016 assessment imposed on the property is at least excessive by $51,829.80, the amount Menard, Inc is seeking as a refund, plus interest and attorney fees.
“Upon information and belief, the 2016 assessment was not uniform with the assessment of other properties in the city and state and therefore, violates the Uniformity Clause of the Wisconsin Constitution,” the suit further alleges.
City attorney Carrie Miljevich noted the city opposes the effort by Menard, Inc. to lower the assessment by using the so-called “dark store theory” as the basis for determining the property’s value.
“The dark story theory enables retailers to pay lower taxes on stores by arguing that their stores are similar in value to vacant (i.e. “dark stores”) stores – even if those stores are in different parts of the state,” Miljevich said. “Legislation has been introduced in the state legislature trying to close this loophole.”
The Rhinelander City Council previously went on record by passing a resolution urging the state legislature to pass legislation to disallow large retailers such as Menards from using the “dark store” loophole to reduce the assessment.
“A reduction in the assessment to Menards would directly impact the city of Rhinelander’s budget,” said Miljevich, who also noted the company has litigation pending against other municipalities in the state.
The city of Rhinelander has 20 days to respond in writing from when the suit brought by the company was served July 31.