Walmart seeks tax reduction

BY VIRGINIA CODY

Wyoming County Press Examiner

Walmart appealed the tax assessment on its now-vacant property inEatonTownshipat aWyomingCountycommissioners meeting  Tuesday.

Attorney for Walmart, Burt Goodman, said since the property is now vacant it represents a 64 percent loss in revenue for the company.

Currently, Walmart pays for the vacant property alone $16,796 in county taxes, $51,644 in school taxes, and $4,818 in Eaton Township taxes, said Wyoming County Chief Assessor Eric Brown.

Asked after the meeting about what Walmart was assessed at its newest store across the road, Brown said he hoped those numbers would be available to the public in about two weeks.

On its vacant property, Walmart proposes the county taxes be lowered to $7,694, school taxes reduced to $23,658, andEatonTownshiptaxes dropped to $2,207.

WyomingCounty’s indicated value on the property is $4, 092,890, chief deputy assessor Cathy Voda said.

The Walmart appraisal sets the value at approximately $1.5 million.

“We just want to pay our fair share,” Goodman toldWyomingCountycommissioners.

Chairman Tony Litwin expressed concern about making such a drastic change and indicated that any new assessment would hold for not just Walmart, but for any prospective buyer of the property.  The only way to adjust the assessment back up would be if the school or future owner initiated an appeal.

The property on Route 29 inEatonTownship, opposite aWalmartSupercenterthat opened Sept. 14, has been on the market for six months at a price of $1.6 million, and hasn’t seen any serious interest, Walmart appraiser Jack Patcella told commissioners.

The reason may be, he admitted, because of some of the restrictions on the property.

“Walmart doesn’t want Target to come in,” he said.

Commissioner Judy Kraft Mead added that she believed the economy itself precluded interest in the property.

“Tough times are good for Walmart,” Goodman said, adding that Walmart considers WyomingCountydemographics to be optimal for its business.

No matter who buys the property though, the existing building isn’t in very good shape and will need to be torn down, Litwin said.

Commissioners thanked the Walmart attorney and appraiser for providing the information they did supporting their proposed reduction in taxes, but declined to act.

It is likely the matter will be addressed in court, Litwin said.

Commissioners addressed tax assessment appeals for approximately nine others on Tuesday.  All were submitted by individual residents.

An appeal of the tax assessment of the EIHAB property (the formerSt.MichaelsSchool) will be addressed on Thursday at9:30 a.m., Brown said.

In other county business, commissioners received thecountyHumanServices Children and Youth budget for 2012/13.

“Overall costs are down,” fiscal officer for Children and Youth told the commissioners.

“Traditionally the county has provided $125,000 per quarter,” she said.  “This year we’ve only asked for $100,000 per quarter.”

Total budget for this organization is a little more than $2.1 million, she said.

Also on Tuesday’s agenda was the signing of a resolution allowing Nancy Lloyd, administrator for the Wyoming County Development Authority to apply for a Community Development Block Grant.

According to chief clerk Bill Gaylord, the WCDA has on hand “$242,528 to divvy up for municipal authority projects.”

Commissioners also signed a hazardous mitigation agreement with the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and accepted funds in the amount of $50,000.

Other subjects under discussion Tuesday included the costs associated with providing dumpsters to flood damaged communities and whether or not to make a one-time withdrawal from a savings certificate account in order to pay mounting flood-related bills.

Gaylord said he wasn’t sure whether many more invoices would be received. But he explained that initial provision of those dumpsters was at county expense.

Litwin said that even though the county would be paying the bills up front, it anticipated at least 75 percent reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The amount to be reimbursed by the PEMA, however, was still an unknown, Gaylord said.