Seligman prepares for Walmart tax impact
City hopes new store's sales, employees will boost economy
Since voters in Benton County, Ark., legalized liquor sales in November 2012, the city of Seligman has suffered a loss of tax dollars.
Brian Nichols, Seligman city clerk, said Seligman has lost about $40,000 in tax revenue mainly because of liquor sales, and he is hoping the new Walmart Express being built in the city will make up for some of the down revenue.
While its hopes are high, Nichols said the city cannot estimate how much tax revenue it will receive from the Walmart Express.
"Hopefully, it will be a nice boost to the local economy around here," Nichols said.
He heard about the Walmart Express project around the first of the year, and he has copies of the store's blueprints at Seligman City Hall.
"I'm just excited to see it go up," Nichols said. "I have heard that once they get the concrete and everything poured for the building, you will be amazed at how fast it goes up, and they will start filling the shelves pretty quickly."
Compared to other businesses in town, the primary source of revenue in Seligman is Ruby's Liquor on Highway 37, and Nichols said the Missouri Department of Transportation estimates 12,000 vehicles travel along Highway 37 per day.
"There is an enormous amount of traffic that comes from Arkansas because, of course, cigarettes are cheaper here in town," Nichols said. "[Ruby's] is just a one stop shop for them. They have a big wine selection there at Ruby's. They saw a big decline in liquor sales whenever Benton County went wet."
The city had to cut two part-time police officers late last year because of the loss in tax revenue, Nichols said. Seligman residents voted down a 1-cent tax hike in April, which would have bolstered the city's police department that was $39,000 over budget in 2013.
The Seligman Police Department is funded through the city's general fund, receiving 45 percent of the 1-cent sales tax and 68 percent of the fines and forfeits accrued through the courts. The city's sales tax, at 2.25 cents, is split up into four categories. There is a 1-cent general sales tax, a 1/2-cent streets sales tax, a 1/2-cent capital improvements sales tax and a 1/4-cent parks sales tax. The water and sewer departments do not receive funds from the tax but from user-based charges. The street department also receives other revenue from property taxes.
With the revenue losses, the city cannot pursue condemning some derelict properties in town because it does not have enough revenue in the general fund. The Seligman Library cannot purchase tablets and additional books, computers, furnishings and materials. City hall cannot install a Wi-Fi system.
"It just made us tightened the belt, big time with that $40,000 loss," Nichols said.
Any new business in the area would bring in some revenues to help, and Nichols said he hopes Walmart will see some high traffic.
"It is going to be a lot of exposure, and it is going to be a lot of traffic," he said. "In the summertime, of course, you have all of the traffic heading out to Roaring River."
White Oak Station, a Dollar General, People's Community Bank, a U.S. Post Office, Seligman Auto Parts, two houses and 13-1/2 acres of farm land are in close proximity to the Walmart Express.
The Walmart Express, which will be near the northeast corner of Highways 37 and 112, has a projected grand opening in mid-December.
Construction began about two weeks ago according to Erica Jones, the senior manager of communications for Walmart. The Express stores average about 12,000 square feet.
"They have about 30 associates, and they have a full line of groceries including fresh produce, deli, meat, bakery and dairy," Jones said. "There is also going to be a pharmacy, and there will be limited household items."
The location will have a four-pump gas station attached, and the general contractor for the project is Crossland Construction, she said. Jones declined to disclose the project's costs.
The city has pre-approved a liquor license for the new store, and the location also includes a Redbox kiosk.