The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

February 29, 2012

New Target, Walmart in Madison may lure East Limestone shoppers, school tax dollars

By Jean Cole
jean@athensnews-courier.com

— Lovers of Target and Walmart stores will be delighted know two such stores will soon be opening near eastern Limestone County.

Lovers of tax dollars in Athens and Limestone could be less thrilled.

In the next 13 months, a new Target store will open south of U.S. 72 in Madison and a new Walmart Super Center will open on the north side of 72 West in Huntsville, between Balch and County Line roads. Both will be perched fewer than two miles from Limestone County. That means they may draw Limestone residents who live nearby as well as those Limestone residents who work in Huntsville and Madison.

“A lot of people on the east side (of Limestone) would tend to shop on the way home, so as mega stores come closer and closer, it will get their attention,” said Limestone County License Commissioner Greg Tucker. “I am concerned for the county schools.”

The formula is based on average daily enrollment within the two school systems.

Tucker said any sales tax that shifts to Madison would probably affect Limestone County Schools most.

Sales tax collected in the city and county is remitted to the state, which then returns a portion to the city of Athens and to Limestone County Schools, said Limestone County Schools Chief Financial Officer Jonathan Craft.

“Limestone County keeps about 74 percent of what it receives and gives about 26 percent to Athens City Schools,” he said. The formula is based on average daily attendance in the two school systems.

Tucker said that with Home Depot and Lowe’s off 72 and Wall Triana Highway (in other words close to eastern Limestone County) some East Limestone residents will be 5 minutes away rather than 10 minutes away from Athens.

“Walmart customers are loyal to Walmart, and this new store will be in the backyard for those who live on the east side,” Tucker said, noting county lines become “blurred” when it comes to shopping.

Upside

Craft is more optimistic about the new stores.

“My hope is that those people in that part of the county are already shopping in Huntsville and Madison anyway, so I hope it won’t effect us that much,” Craft said. “Hopefully, people in Limestone County will also remember that by shopping here they help the schools.”

Plus, development in the area works both ways. Craft noted. The new Publix supermarket off County Line Road is located in Limestone County, so the schools benefit from it.

Craft also said sales-tax collections are on the rise, increasing slightly in the past year.

“Last month we had good collections,” he said.

Openings

The Madison Target will open next month in a new shopping center called The Shoppes of Madison. Huntsville’s seventh Walmart —which will be less than a mile from Limestone County — is expected to open in the spring of 2013 in a shopping center called Colonial Promenade.