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Tax Deal for Geneseo Walmart

There's a debate over tax breaks for the Walmart in Geneseo.
The big box store is asking for a $3.5 million reduction in its property tax assessments. A compromise is on the table, but mom and pop stores say don't do it.

"People tend to bypass our Main Street and go right to Walmart," said Angel Berry, Owner of Image Empire Salon.

Berry's salon is one of the dozens of small businesses on Main Street in Geneseo.

"They put in a hair salon inside Walmart, so it does take a lot of business away from us small business hair salons," said Berry.

Berry and other small business owners became upset when Walmart asked for its property tax assessment to be lowered from $15.5 million to $12 million for 2015.

"It is not uncommon for businesses and/or homeowners to challenge their assessment. Some people make a business of it and it's one of Walmart's business practices to do this on a routine basis," said Town Supervisor William Wadsworth.

Elected leaders thought $12 million was too low but did offer a compromise assessment of $13.2 million. It still means Walmart will pay about $50,000 less in property taxes.

"We offered that reasonable reduction and the purpose of offering that is to avoid a fight; a legal battle," said Wadsworth.

"We had gone through some assessment challenges previously with some other fairly large property owners. They prevailed and what happens then was we had to pay back three years of back taxes," said Mayor Richard Hatheway,

But local business owners say it's not about the money. They think Walmart is flexing its muscles.

"I don't think they should have relief with taxes. I think they should pay just like everybody else, especially they are big box. They are making more than the small business owner, so they shouldn't get any breaks," said Berry.

If Walmart agrees, a final decision could be made in a couple of months. Under the compromise, Walmart's tax assessment would go up another half a million dollars in 2016 and stay flat through 2018.

According to the numbers from the town supervisor, the Geneseo School District is the big loser. It'll be out almost $21,000. The county will lose about $10,000. The village about $9,000.

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