Home Improvement Chain Understands Risks of Community Improvement Districts

Springfield has recently become as district-crazy as the larger cities in the state, creating improvement districts to benefit Hy-Vee and other retail developments. Through the improvement districts, the city pays for improvements to make an area hospitable to a private development and then levies an additional sales tax on purchases made at the development to recapture those outlays.

Personally, I’m against helping some developers out at the expense of other development types. The government should not pay favorites in this way. If a private citizen is to build a house or whatnot, he has to pay to hook it up to the infrastructure. But if the private citizen is a development corporation with enough clout and promises of jobs and sales–regardless of whether those sales are merely moving sales from another retailer in the area to the new one with the additional sales tax levy–then the districts happen.

But a Wisconsin-based home improvement center wants no part of the CID where it wants to open:

Menards, however, does not want to be included in a 1 percent sales tax Community Improvement District the council previously approved for the Hickory Hills Marketplace.

The CID tax would pay for certain infrastructure improvements as tax revenues roll in over time.

According to a council bill explanation, “One of the conditions of Menards locating at the development is that their site not be included in the CID.”

Having a CID tax in place potentially could make Menards products more expensive.

“They do a lot of business on a large scale, like prefabricated home kits,” said Mayor Jim O’Neal. “That extra percent is probably not something they really want. I think the necessary improvements can be made without them.”

It’s quite obvious when you’re a contractor spending thousands of dollars per purchase the difference between buying it at Menards or buying it at Meeks.

On smaller purchases, like groceries and department store items, it’s easier to lose sight of that 1% extra you’re paying. It’s only an extra dollar per $100 trip, but if you’re cumulatively spending thousands of dollars a year, you’re cheating yourself of those dollars if you shop at a store in a CID.

Good for Menards for opting out, although they’re doing it for the principle of being competitive and making profit, not the principle that special favors for esteemed land developers are morally wrong.

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