HOUGHTON, Mich. (WJMN) – A release from the City of Houghton, claims a property tax appeal by Walmart could impact local schools, veterans, and public services.
According to the release, Walmart is looking to lower the tax valuation of the Houghton store at 995 Razorback Drive. The result, if successful would be a retroactive refund of $1.2 million and reduced property taxes in the future for Walmart. The City of Houghton claims that action would force budget cuts for public services in order to make up for the loss of future city tax revenues.
Local 3 contacted Walmart’s corporate office for a response and received the following statement:
“Walmart is committed to the Houghton community, and it is home to many of our associates and customers. Walmart is a responsible taxpayer, and like any property owner, we believe our property should be valued just like everyone else’s. When we get a property tax bill, it should reflect the value of the land, brick, and mortar rather than the value of our business operations.”Statement from Walmart Corporate Affairs
The release from the City of Houghton also claims that if Walmart wins its property tax appeal, budgets will be impacted for K-12 schools, veterans’ services, Houghton County medical care facilities, the library, and the City of Houghton.
City leaders also believe the appeal violates a development agreement made between Walmart and the City of Houghton. In the agreement, Houghton claims it provided Walmart with land and infrastructure to accommodate store expansion. In return, Walmart was to increase the store’s assessed value to cover the land, infrastructure, and ongoing expenses.
In a meeting on Thursday, community leaders gathered in the City of Houghton Council Chamber to talk about the potential impact of the appeal and what it’s calling a breach of the development agreement.
Houghton City Manager Eric Waara said in the release, “Walmart is important to our community, but this doesn’t privilege them from property tax responsibilities.” Waara continued, “Our local Walmart store employs veterans and hard-working parents who rely on city services, so it is disheartening that they are not willing to negotiate a solution to avoid negatively impacting public budgets and services for their customers and employees.”
A task force has been created in Houghton to increase awareness of the situation and to prepare for future tax implications. According to the release, the group includes city leaders, public school administrators, veterans’ service groups, the public library, local economic development
experts, and many other community stakeholders. The task force will ensure that the community
understands the consequences of Walmart’s desire to mitigate property tax expenses at the cost of vital community services.
“I am very disappointed by Walmart’s actions,” said Anders Hill, superintendent of Houghton-Portage Township Schools in a release from the City of Houghton. “We have limited resources and strive to be responsible with what we have to impact students. Loss of these funds forces us to make some very tough decisions that will not be what is best for kids. Walmart’s actions do not reflect being a partner with our community.”
The release from the City of Houghton, which you can read in full below, concludes with a message that the task force and City of Houghton, encourages a response from Walmart that would, “salvage a relationship that has benefited both Walmart and the people of the