What happens to a company town when the company closes shop? Sindelfingen in southwest Germany has been one of the country’s richest towns, but now Mercedes-Daimler has closed its factory there for a month, and forecasting no profits next year, will not be paying any local taxes.It is a nightmare for the town hall, where budget calculations are heading into unknown territory. But while revenues will all but disappear, bills still have to be paid: “We have the municipal obligation to provide a range of infrastructure even if there is no business tax income. Having said that, I think we must remind companies they also have an obligation to provide the neccessary infrastructure funding, whether the company is profitable or not,” says Mayor Bernd Vöhringer. The town’s swimming pool needs a new roof, and plans to repair it next year have been put off indefinitely. An ongoing project to build a motorway improving access to the factory also needs to be finished: “Look here, this is a highway extension under construction. It costs us 13 million euros. Next year we don’t have any business tax revenues – or very little. They’ll be at an all-time low – but we have to fund the construction work until the end,” added Deputy Mayor Helmut Riegger. The days of Sindelfingen being so rich it could build pedestrian crossings out of marble appear gone for now, and when the factory reopens it will only be for four or three days a week.
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