Regardless of where exiting personnel live, all service men and women spend money in the local economy. This spending occurs at local restaurants, supermarkets, movie theaters, local attractions and at a variety of other local businesses. As military personnel leave the area, local businesses can expect to see a reduction in consumer spending, and this decline directly impacts local business revenue as well as dampens future demand for local goods and services. This reduction in revenue may impact businesses’ ability to expand operations locally and to support further employment opportunities for local residents.
Personnel assigned to Fort Benning have a choice to either live on post or on the local economy. A significant portion of Benning’s active duty personnel live off post, which helps support the local housing market. Depending on where exiting personnel live, the impact to housing values may vary. Understanding the magnitude and location of the impacts to housing market is import to both the local real estate industry and local governments. A significant source of tax revenue is generated from property taxes – as vacancies increase and housing values decline, so too does the amount of revenue local governments generate from property taxes.
Military personnel have families of varying sizes and ages. It is estimated that the size of the average military household living off post is nearly 3.3 – over 20% larger than the average household of the surrounding community! This means that the school districts throughout the surrounding community contain a sizable military-dependent student population. As school aged military dependents leave the area, local schools will be impacted by both a decline in enrollments and federal, military impact funding that is tied to each exiting student. Moreover, local funding for K-12 schools is tied to property taxes and Local Option Sales Taxes – as the aggregate housing value and consumer spending decline, so too does a significant portion of local K-12 school funding.
Local governments are tasked with providing public services to the residents of their communities – many of whom are military households. These services are varied but generally include building and maintaining local infrastructure, providing solid waste collection, processing wastewater and sewage and providing potable water to residents. In order to provide these services effectively, local governments depend on funding from a variety of federal, state and local sources. Two of the most significant local sources are property taxes and the Local Option Sales Tax. As mentioned above, exiting military personnel from Fort Benning will affect these sources of revenue by impacting a combination of local consumer spending, aggregate housing values and K-12 enrollment.
The Valley Joint Development Authority (VJDA), with funding from the Department of Defense (DoD) Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA), has teamed up with Matrix Design Group and Hexad Analytics to study the economic and fiscal impacts projected to occur throughout the community. This study will estimate the severity of each impact described above as well as where the impact will likely occur. The results of this analysis will inform an overall impact mitigation plan, which will assist local governments and organizations with their planning efforts.
The project study area consists of the counties and municipalities immediately surrounding Fort Benning. This area includes Muscogee County (Columbus), Russell County, Chattahoochee County and Phenix City, AL. The area is home to over 315,000 residents, nearly 9,000 businesses, and four school districts. At the heart of the region, Fort Benning and the US Army Maneuver Center of Excellence supports an estimated 38,000 active duty, military students / trainees, civilians and defense contractors. Furthermore, over 40,000 Veterans and military retirees reside within the region.
We are currently in the process of collecting data by examining public demographic and financial data and holding a number of stakeholder meetings to better understand the community and its ties to Fort Benning. These stakeholders include local school districts, realtors, economic development organizations, Higher Education institutions and local government officials. As the study progresses, the page will be updated informing interested parties of its current status.
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