Crowd of one questions Wal-Mart PILOT


By Patsy Nicosia

There was almost no opposition to renewing a PILOT for Sharon Springs' Wal-Mart Distribution Center when the Schoharie County Industrial Development Agency held a public hearing on the tax breaks last Monday.
Village resident Seth Many was the only one speaking against the deal, which has Wal-Mart making a $975,000 payment in lieu of taxes each year for 10 years.
Wal-Mart's goal was to keep the PILOT under $1 million annually.
The Distribution Center is assessed at $59 million, which means its tax bill would be $2.9 million annually without a PILOT, according to Schoharie County Treasurer Bill Cherry.
The 10-year replaces the 20-year PILOT set up when the Distribution Center was built in 1995.
That PILOT has Wal-Mart paying $120,000 annually with the town, village, and school getting about 30 percent of that and the county getting nine percent.
Supervisor Sandra Manko and Mayor Doug Garth both said that the trade-off for jobs is worth the tax breaks.
But Mr. Many argued that as one of the richest corporations in the world, Wal-mart isn't paying its fair share.
"Wal-Mart is a non-needy corporation in the extreme," Mr. Many said.
IDA Chief Executive Officer Ron Filmer, however, explained that "needy" is relative.
"Needy can be people in the community needing jobs," he said. "It's not just corporations...The community has felt that the 500 jobs here [was worth the lost taxes]."
Ms. Manko agreed that the municipalities are the "needy" ones.
"We don't want Wal-Mart to leave," she said, pointing out that Economic Development agencies in other communities could lure the Distribution Center away with better deals without this PILOT-something that's happened in other places.
Mayor Plummer said the village had sought a larger increase in each of the years, but the other municipalities were willing to go with this deal, and in the end, that's okay.
Without this PILOT Wal-Mart is likely to challenge its property; the arrangement now pays all of the village's water and sewer improvement debt, Mayor Plummer said.
Mr. Filmer said the IDA board will take Mr. Many's comments into consideration before acting on the PILOT, likely in December.