The Wal-Mart corporation brings in $420,471 a minute in sales. So it is somewhat surprising to residents of the little community of Saukville, Wisconsin that Wal-Mart is trying to get a break on their local property taxes. According to Bill Schanen IV, editor of the Ozaukee Press, Wal-Mart and its landlord, Benenson Capitol Company, has applied to the town for a tax abatement to lower its assessment by $1 million. This would result in a tax break for Wal-Mart of $21,306. The tax cut would also take $11,469 from the Port Washington-Saukville School District. (An amount, says Schanen, “that far exceeds the value of the store’s well-publicized Teacher of the Year award.”) The editor of the County newspaper wrote a column criticizing Wal-Mart’s move. “Never mind the fact that the value of almost every property — commercial, industrial and residential — went up this year as a result of a villagewide reassessment; the corporation doesn’t want to pay what the village says is its fair share of taxes.” The editor notes: “No matter how hard the store tries to give the impression that it is a concerned member of the business community, the truth is it is part of a chain whose interest in Saukville is, at best, fleeting, and over which the village has little influence.” Benenson Capitol wants the Wal-Mart land and buildings assessment to drop from $5.23 million today, to $4.17 million. Editor Schanen points out that “big box retail outlets exact costs on the communities in which they do business,” including road repair, and police services patroling the expansive parking lot. “It would be wrong to give a retailing giant that has a reputation of putting small town merchants out of business, one that may expand its Saukville store to compete with grocery stores and gas stations, a tax break while other businesses and citizens of the village pay their fair share.” The editorial then urged local officials in Saukville not to “broker a special deal with Wal-Mart” which would basically be subsidized by other businesses in the village who pay their fair share.
Wal-Mart brings in around $7,008 every second of every hour, of every day in the year. At that rate, it would take Wal-Mart roughly 3 seconds to earn what it wants abated from its property taxes in Saukville. The editor of the Ozaukee Press says this pressure to save a few seconds of revenue shows Wal-Mart’s “true colors.” The story of the Saukville Shake-Down won’t appear on any Wal-Mart ads, but local citizens will remember what the editor calls the “corporate bullies.” For other examples of corporate welfare, search this database by the word “welfare.”