State officials made several stops in Kenosha Monday to discuss budget issues with residents and city officials.
Department of Revenue Secretary-designee Peter Barca and Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary-designee Mary Kolar discussed middle class tax cuts, retail sales tax, dark store issues and veterans programs during the tour, which included stops at a local restaurant, a local hardware store, a cafe and the county’s Veterans Affairs office.
At Gateway Cafe, 3619 30th Ave., they met with city, county and village officials to discuss issues affecting their communities and to learn of concerns they had about the budget and financing options.
They were accompanied by state Reps. Tod Ohnstad, D-Kenosha, and Tip McGuire, D-Kenosha.
At Gateway, one of the key discussion points was the dark store issue that officials said puts a strain on their municipal budgets and ultimately upon taxpayers.
The dark stores tax loophole allows big-box retailers to have their tax assessments based on similar sized vacant buildings. Local municipal officials say the move shifts more of the tax burden onto individuals.
Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian said the loophole has had an impact on the city and property owners. Antaramian estimated that the impact was about $450 per household.
He said the revenue stream is drying up, saying there is a need for other types of revenue other than from property taxes.
Somers Village President George Stoner said taxpayers in his community faced a higher tax burden because Walmart and Sam’s Club have used the loophole to reduce their taxes.
Stoner noted that those stores require more municipal resources, noting that they result in more police calls than any other place in the village.
After Gateway, officials went to Parkside True Value Hardware, 1735 22nd. Ave.; Jack’s Cafe at Jack Andrea, 2401 60th St.; and the Veterans Leaders event at the Kenosha County Jobs Center, 8600 Sheridan Road.
Barca said the stops were designed to listen to community concerns and to discuss how the budget would affect taxpayers and local business owners.
Barca said other key issues include transportation infrastructure and education. He noted that the budget signed by Gov. Tony Evers includes increased funds for education, with an increased focus on special education.
Kolar, a Navy veteran with 28 years of service, outlined some of the programs and issues regarding veterans and how the state budget affects them.
She said she wanted to ensure that more veterans take advantage of benefits due to them, especially the Veterans Outreach program.