Sometimes you just have to ask “How much money and greed is enough?”
Meijer, Inc. is one of the largest privately-owned companies in the country. When he died, Frederick Meijer, the son of the founder of the company, was worth $5 billion. The stores pioneered the concept of “one-stop shopping”, a shopping center where you could buy everything from car batteries to fresh broccoli.
This past year, Meijer, Inc. has been challenging its tax assessments around the state, saving itself millions and millions of dollars, money that is coming, in large part, directly from the coffers of the municipalities and schools where their stores are located. The Lansing area seems particularly hard hit:
The Meijer store at 2055 W. Grand River was extensively remodeled and reorganized last year to maintain its footing in the lucrative Okemos market.
Yet, the Michigan Tax Tribunal has accepted an agreement between Meridian Township and the retailer to value the store for property tax purposes between 2010 and 2012 as if it were “dark,” meaning it was closed and for sale during that time.
The settlement means Walker-based grocery and general merchandise chain Meijer Inc. will receive refunds totaling $320,165 from several public agencies, including Okemos Public Schools and the Okemos Downtown Development Authority. And it’s not an isolated case.
The DDA will be required to refund around $86,000 in taxes. The financially-stressed Okemos School District must repay $130,332.
Meijer has successfully challenged assessments at dozens of other stores, including one at 1350 W. Lake Lansing Road in East Lansing. There, the taxable value was reduced a total of $1.4 million for 2011 and 2012, resulting in $203,000 cut in property taxes, said David Lee, tassessor for the city and Meridian Township.
Meijer has appealed property tax values for 97 of its 140 stores dating back to fiscal year 2009, Michigan Tax Tribunal chief clerk Peter Kopke said. Thirteen cases are pending.
Meijer isn’t the only big box store doing this. Home Depot and Lowes are, too. The result is that these profitable companies are extracting money from schools and the local government at a time when both have already coughed up significant funds in terms of reduced funding to pay for corporate tax breaks these same companies are already enjoying. This only serves to compound a financial catastrophe already in progress around our state.
I understand the desire to maximize profits. All companies have that as their overarching aim. But when you help to destroy the cities in which you operate and the schools of the kids that live in the community that your PR people brag you are so concerned about, the rest of us really begin to wonder just how much money is enough and just how greedy do you have to be before you get labeled as “evil”.
It looks very much to me like Meijer, Inc. is trying to find out.
[Public domain image credit: Mrmiscellanious | Wikimedia Commons]