Legislators vote to reduce Walmart tax
WATKINS GLEN--The Schuyler County Legislature voted Tuesday, Oct. 15, to authorize a settlement with Walmart Inc. that reduces the original 2019 tax assessment of the Watkins Glen store. The reduction amounts to $391,300 and locks that rate in for the next three years.
After the meeting, County Administrator Tim O'Hearn said it was a good outcome. However, the vote was not unanimous as Michael Lausell (D-District 3) was the lone vote against.
"(Walmart Inc.) play(s) hardball, and we are doing our part to make this a better community, improving the economy... I just think it's fair that they do their part," said Lausell.
He added he has yet to hear a good reason why Walmart contested the assessment in the first place.
"We have professionals assessing property and I think we are being a little soft on (Walmart)," Lausell said.
Through the agreement, the 2018 assessment of $11,899,000 will remain unchanged, while the 2019 assessment has been reduced to $11,507,700. That figure has been locked in as the assessment value until 2022.
"We go through this all the time with Walmart," Lausell said after the meeting. "There is a history going on."
Lausell, who said the county should stick with the assessments and defend them, added money wasn't the only thing that bothered him about the settlement.
"I think as a board we should be informed of the negotiation as it is going on, and so instead of the last minute when the settlement is being reached we can ask questions, we can be the part of the conversation," Lausell said.
O'Hearn mentioned the reduction for 2019 is only slight and that Walmart only got a fraction of the reduction they initially asked for.
"This has been dragging on for years, so (Walmart Inc.) waived all the back years... (the settlement) represents recognition of the value of the business as well as the need to balance and be fair to our taxpayers," O'Hearn said.
The other contested vote of the evening involved approving $76,000 as the new annual salary for the position of Clinic Director for Mental Health Community Services. The new salary, which represents a raise of roughly $9,000 over the previous year, is scheduled to start Oct. 21 when the new clinic director officially takes over.
Lausell was joined by David Reed (R-District 1) in voting against the raise.
"I don't think a $9,000 raise is fiscally responsible," said Reed when discussing the vote.
After the meeting Reed said a $9,000 raise for the position was inappropriate when other county positions aren't getting similar raises.
"I am a firm believer that everyone should get the same raise," Reed said. "We may have some hard sledding in the next couple years due to more government mandates through our district attorney's office, social services and the bail department."