Wal-Mart drops assessment lawsuit


By Patsy Nicosia

The Wal-Mart Corporation has dropped its lawsuit challenging the assessment of its Sharon Springs Distribution Center.
In a notice of petition filed in July 2017, Wal-Mart sought to have the property tax assessment of its Route 20 facility slashed from $59 million to $15.8 million.
Working together, the Town of Sharon, Village of Sharon Springs, Sharon Springs Central School and Schoharie County—all of which would have been hurt by the assessment cut—agreed to chip in toward the cost of an independent appraisal of the property and hired the Vincelette Law Firm out of Albany, which has experience in dealing with Wal-Mart, at a cost of $3,000 for the legal work.
Friday, they all got an email from Dan Vincelette telling them Wal-Mart has dropped its challenge.
“Wal-Mart is discontinuing their proceedings challenging the assessment…” Mr. Vincelette wrote.
“We had a few conversations with petitioner’s attorneys last week in which we convinced them that their proceedings lacked merit and would have little chance of success in court.”
“This is terrific news,” said Sharon Supervisor Sandra Manko. “Sometimes things work out. I don’t know why they changed their mind, but I’m glad they did.”
The Wal-Mart Distribution Center was built in 1995; its assessment was based on construction costs.
Because Wal-Mart makes payments in lieu of taxes--$970,000 a year under a 10-year PILOT renegotiated in 2015, the impact of a successful suit wouldn’t have been felt immediately; Wal-Mart would have still paid its PILOT.
But a lower assessment would have changed the distribution of sales tax revenues and it would have hit especially hard in the Village of Sharon Springs, where water and sewer revenues are based in part on assessments.
Mike West, town and county attorney, said it’s likely Wal-Mart took a look at the cost of an independent appraisal of the property and, weighing it against the likelihood of success, decided it wasn’t worth the expense.