Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Wal-Mart Taxes Spur Tug of War between Districts Festus, Crystal City Claim Revenue

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Wal-Mart Taxes Spur Tug of War between Districts Festus, Crystal City Claim Revenue

Article excerpt

Time was when no one really cared about the paltry taxes from a tract of marshland on Truman Boulevard that straddles the boundary between Crystal City and Festus.

Not until 1993 anyway. That's when the flood-prone 26 acres was filled in and the giant Wal-Mart Supercenter opened. Instead of a worthless sinkhole, the property became a tax bonanza.

Since then, the Festus and Crystal City school districts have been fighting each other in a suit about which district gets the tax revenue.

The school superintendents and lawyers for both districts recently argued their cases before a circuit judge in Hillsboro.

Wal-Mart didn't play favorites when it built the store. It was positioned so that half was in one city and half in the other. The school districts use the same boundary.

An emblem of the Crystal City Hornets is at one end of the store and an emblem of the Festus Tigers at the other. Either city's police department will respond to a robbery or shoplifting report, depending on which door the culprit uses for escape.

Given the sibling rivalry of the cities and school districts, officials were anxious to gain the revenue from a property now assessed at $4 million. The cities divided the windfall, and it looked as if the school districts would too.

But some members of the Festus School Board recalled that the tract had, in years past, been completely in the Festus district. Soon, Festus Superintendent Robert Taylor was checking records at the county assessor's office. So was Crystal City's superintendent, James Maze.

They found that, indeed, all the property had been in the Festus School District, at least back to 1978. Previous records were unavailable. Festus officials believe their district got the taxes at least back to 1942.

In 1985, the Crystal City schools got all the revenue. Since 1986, the property has been divided into two tracts with Crystal City schools getting taxes from the south half and Festus schools getting taxes from the north half. …

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