The Bureau County Board has approved three different multi-million dollar wind projects during the last year, promising economic growth for the small north-central Illinois county.
However, problems with assessing the wind farms have halted some of the projects, as well as projects popping up throughout the state, as developers wait for a satisfying compromise in an argument about how to tax the energy-producing enterprises.
Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, is attempting to resolve the conflict with legislation he introduced in the
Illinois House last month. House Bill 380, seeks to amend the property tax code and set forth procedures for an assessment system based on kilowatt-hours of electricity produced. Taxing bodies would use the same across the state when assessing wind farms.
He said the bill, which has been assigned to the House Revenue Committee, is just a starting point, because he’s sure representatives from both sides will have some opinions about the proposal.
But at least this will get the ball rolling, he said.
“We’re hoping at the end of the day to create a statewide standard for assessing the wind turbines,” said Mautino.
Mautino said many wind developments cross county borders, meaning they face paying different tax assessments for the same project.
“We’re not going to have one developer in two counties pay two different tax rates,” Mautino said.
Mautino said he found many kindred spirits on the House floor who were also concerned with assessing these fairly new energy producers. The issue has now become not only a bi-partisan concern but also has both sides of the General Assembly working on a solution.
Sen. Dan Rutherford, R-Pontiac, has teamed up with Mautino and is pushing the issue in the Senate to create some resolve in what he calls a patchwork pattern in wind assessments around the state.
The state officials will determine whether Illinois should tax on the value of the turbines, the amount of energy produced, or some formula that incorporates both these aspects.
“Right now, some counties base the real property value at 18 percent of the project,” Mautino said. “And then, Bureau assesses at full value … We need a set standard.”
Rutherford said the challenge is to make both sides of the argument happy.
“There are already some assessments in place,” he said, adding someone will most likely not like the new standard. “Someone will end up either paying more or getting less.”
Bureau County is in litigation with the owners of Crescent Ridge LLC over assessment of the 33-wind turbine farm in Tiskilwa. The county wants to assess the project at 100 percent, while the company has maintained it should be a fraction of that figure.
In Woodford County, plans are to assess a 79-turbine Navitas Energy project near Benson at 20 percent of the market value. In Lee County, where the first operational wind farm in the state went online about 1 1/2 years ago, the Mendota Hills project near Paw Paw is assessed at 25 percent.
The County Assessors Association researched how surrounding states assessed turbine farms, creating a base model for assessments in Illinois.
Rutherford said he plans on having many productive discussions with opponents from both the developing side and the taxing sides.
“We’re going to be methodical and consensus driven,” Rutherford said. “I don’t think you can force a decision, there are strong feeling on both sides of this.”
Erinn Deshinsky can be reached at 686-3041 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
7 February 2007
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