Banking on Taxes from Wal-Mart? Think Again…

Sorry, I had it here somewhere...
Sorry, I had it here somewhere...

One of the big promises that accompanies the selling of a new Wal-Mart to starry-eyed small town officials is the tax lure. Suddenly, Wal-Mart comes to town and with it the gravy train. You’ve got local mayors and county officials dreaming at night of the ways to spend the millions they predict will roll in.

But Wal-Mart doesn’t like paying taxes. Honestly, though, who can blame them? No one likes paying taxes.

The problem is that Wal-Mart promises local governments a big payout, then turns around and delivers something else. I don’t know how you were raised, but my momma told me lying was wrong.

A simple Google search on the words “Wal-Mart” and “taxes” will uncover a litany of scheming that would make a mafioso blanch. Here’s a sampling:

From The Wall Street Journal : Why Wal-Mart Setup Shop in Italy

From The New York Times : Study Says Wal-Mart Fights Local Taxes

From The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel : Wal-Mart Owes Back Taxes, State Says

From Good Jobs First: Rolling Back Property Tax Payments

Fact is, Wal-Mart doesn’t want our community to get its money, and it will find any way it can not to pay the very money it promised those starry-eyed local officials.

Brown County can’t wait to build a new jail with money it longs to get from taxing a new Wal-Mart. Anyone want to guess what happens when the county starts building that jail and then suddenly the funds just ain’t there?

Who goes to jail then?

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No Wal-Mart? Well, We Can Always Hope…

According to the Wednesday, June 18 edition of The Wall Street Journal, Wal-Mart announced it will be scaling back the number of stores it opens in the next few years, chopping more than a billion dollars in capital expenditures in 2009 alone.

The Journal also notes the following:

Critics have questioned the benefit of Wal-Mart supercenters on local communities, particularly small towns with mom-and-pop stores that are often forced out of business when a Wal-Mart store opens in the area.

Yeah, exactly.

Plans for Kroger, a local company that keeps jobs and money in the Greater Cincinnati area (unlike Wal-Mart), include a new Marketplace center that would fulfill any perceived need for access to a wider range of goods. We can only hope that Wal-Mart decides to take the retail fight elsewhere.

Your Tax Dollars at Work (or How Wal-Mart Costs You Money)

Money, money, money...Last week, the local newspaper reported that two police officers were added to the Mt. Orab police force. As I noted in an earlier post, most estimates place the yearly total cost of those officers (with salaries, training, and equipment) at about $75,000 per. The article also notes that the officers were added in expectation of the new shopping center anchored by Wal-Mart.

So the Wal-Mart’s not supposed to open until 2011, from what many have said, yet we’re already looking at an expenditure through that time totaling nearly half a million dollars of taxpayer money to pay for the officers. In a town of just 3000 people.

Tell us again how Wal-Mart saves us money?

Wal-Mart = Urban Sprawl

I moved out to the country in part so I could see the stars at night. Remember stars? They speak of the glory of God, don’t they?

I moved out to the country so I could see real songbird, the bluebirds and spring warblers. Herons come to my pond.

I moved out to the country because I wanted to raise my son in a place less dominated by American consumerism. I wanted him to see what the world looked like before it got taken over by shopping malls, gaudy retail signs, and traffic lights.

There’s a beauty and innocence in the country that you can’t find any place else. That feel of rural America can’t be replaced once its gone. Yet the rampage of urban sprawl eats up of the wide open spaces faster than you can say, “Low, low prices!”

But some things can’t be bought and sold. Once the stars are gone, how do we get them back? Once the songbirds have been driven away by the starlings and house sparrows that accompany urban sprawl, what will bring them back?

Once our town has been converted into just another ugly, harried, homogeneous piece of sprawl, how do we cope?

We already know that a Kroger Marketplace store is coming. With Wal-Mart, that makes two monster retail stores in a town of 3,000 people.

Someone will certainly make tons of money off the deal, but most of us will be losers in the end. With five Wal-Mart stores already within a half hour’s drive, why would we possibly want to kiss all the good things we have goodbye and bring just another chunk of diseased sprawl to our town?

Remember: you never appreciate what you have until they take it away.

New Jail? You’ll Need One When Wal-Mart Comes to Town

One of the cries of Brown County leadership concerns a new jail. The thought is that bringing Wal-Mart to town will generate enough tax monies for the county to build that jail.

Sadly, they’ll need a new jail should Wal-Mart take up county residence. Why? Because Wal-Mart stores boast a scary amount of crime:

  • The average Wal-Mart in Ohio reported 188.5 police incidents per year in 2004.
  • Police costs alone average $77.50 per incident, totaling an average of $14,608.75 per store in Ohio. (The average cost for moving those offenders through the county legal system, which has not been tracked, is certainly much higher.)
  • Worse, most police departments find they must add an extra officer just to handle the increased crime generated by the Wal-Mart. That cost? $80,600 for an additional officer, which includes salary, benefits, training, and equipment.

But any large retail store creates a temptation to crime, right? True, but not all retailers are created equal crime-wise. An independent study conducted in 2005 compared Wal-Mart stores with Target stores located near each other. The results are shocking:

  • The average Wal-Mart store generated nearly 5 times the crime of its neighbor Target store.
  • Customers and employees were 6 times as likely to be assaulted at Wal-Mart than Target.
  • Customers and employees had their vehicles stolen from Wal-Mart parking lots at 10 times the rate of the Target.

Clearly, Wal-Mart has a serious security issue.

The upshot?

The few bucks taxpayers save at Wal-Mart will be offset by higher taxes needed to handle the increased crime and subsequent criminal prosecution that haunts each store.Handcuffs

The neighborhoods Wal-Mart populates automatically become less safe. Worse, Wal-Mart sees far more crime per store than other large, retail stores.

Higher taxes and more crime—suddenly, that smiling Wal-Mart happy face seems out of place.

As for all those business taxes Wal-Mart will be giving Brown County to operate within its borders (money earmarked to build that ironic, new jail), just ask the State of Illinois what happened to $26.4 million in tax money Wal-Mart managed to avoid paying them.

But that’s fodder for another post…

For more, see the Wal-Mart crime study here.