Company Relocating To Manchester Is Involved In Tax Dispute

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(Host) The mattress manufacturing company that plans to relocate to Manchester is in a tax dispute with its current home in Hoosick, New York.

Officials there say WCW Inc. owes more than a million dollars in unpaid taxes.

But as VPR’s Susan Keese reports, Manchester sees little cause for concern.

(Keese) Governor Peter Shumlin called it a great day for Bennington County: A maker of mattress systems for hospitals and hotels chose a building in Manchester as its new home.

WCW has just over a hundred employees, and plans to grow. The Shumlin administration has offered to reward that growth with an estimated half-million dollar incentive package.

The town of Manchester offered nothing — other than a hefty grand list and a stable tax rate that’s one of the lowest in Vermont. John O’Keefe is the Manchester town manager.

(O’Keefe) "The town didn’t need to cede anything on taxation. The tax rate was already … more than competitive with New York and more than competitive with Massachusetts, the local municipal taxes, without any tax incentives."

(Keese) O’Keefe says town officials knew from the beginning of the month-long negotiations that WCW had a tax problem in New York.

(O’Keefe) "The town of Hoosick had also sent us some articles via fax. But actually they were behind the curve, because actually the company brought it up the first conversation that we had. So they we very honest about it."

(Keese) Tony Rice, the property assessor for the town of Hoosick, says he sent the clippings and tax documents to Manchester as a warning.

Rice says that since 2007, WCW hasn’t paid any taxes at all on one of three buildings the company owns in Hoosick.

(Rice) "I just basically wanted him to be informed that things don’t always appear to be what they actually are."

(Keese) The building’s previous owner was also behind on taxes. The site had been vacant for years when WCW purchased it at a "distressed price" of $400,000 in 2006. 

Rice says the town of Hoosick offered a lower tax assessment. But the village of Hoosick, which also has taxing power, has refused to lower its assessment of more than $13 million.

WCW owner John Wilkinson says he didn’t pay any taxes because the case was in appeal in Rensalaer County Court.

(Wilkinson) "And our attorney advised us to withhold the taxes until the judge ruled on the appeal…. It was because of that that we started to look elsewhere for property. Obviously, a $13 million appraisal, which is 33 times more than we paid for the building, is usury."

(Keese) Wilkinson says he and his company own several properties in Hoosick.

(Wilkinson) "And for the past 13 years we have never missed a tax payment on any of those properties."

(Keese) Officials in New York say WCW is leaving Hoosick taxpayers in the lurch by moving to Vermont.

But Manchester officials say they’ve visited the Hoosick site. They’re convinced that the building is worth less than it’s assessed for, and that WCW will pay its fair share in Manchester.

For VPR News, I’m Susan Keese in Manchester.

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