Waukesha to settle Walmart tax assessment lawsuits

By Cara Spoto

Feb. 21, 2019

WAUKESHA — The city will settle two recent property tax assessment lawsuits brought against it by Walmart.

Aldermen voted 13-2 this week to approve an agreement with the retail giant that will result in the corporation receiving a $43,703 property tax refund. Aldermen Kathleen Cummings and Eric Payne voted against the move.

The lawsuits brought by Walmart argue that the city over-assessed its Supercenter at 2000 S. West Ave. in 2017 and 2018.

Under the agreement approved by the Common Council, the city would place the assessment for the store at $12.9 million — about $1.12 million less than what the city had originally valued the property.

The refund will cover both the 2017 and 2018 tax year challenges.

The 2017 refund of $21,737.16 is slated to be made within 30 days of execution of the settlement agreement, and the 2018 refund of $21,965.81 by Sept. 1.

The alternative to settling, explained City Attorney Brian Running in a memo, would be going to trial.

“The risk in (going to trial) is that we may receive a less favorable result,” Running wrote. “In light of the current state of the law, the city must concede that there is some possibility of a lower assessment being determined by a court. The advantage of settlement is that we can reach a mutually-agreeable result and have some control over it, rather than roll the dice and hope for the best at trial.”

On Tuesday night he told aldermen that the valuation agreed to in the settlement was much closer to what the city had originally arrived at than what Walmart had requested in its lawsuits.

“Our outside counsel, which is hired by our liability insurance company at absolutely no additional cost to the city, recommends this settlement, (as does the city assessor),” he said.