A legislative effort to figure out how to assess wind farms for property tax purposes is gaining momentum, state Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, said recently.
At present, Illinois counties can use different methodologies to assess wind farms, a situation that complicates assessments for any wind farm straddling county lines.
Wind farms are a relatively new, but growing, industry in Illinois.
“There’s nothing like it out there,” Mautino said. “How do you make a statewide standard for something that didn’t exist during your whole 150 years as a county?”
For about a month and a half, Mautino has been negotiating with other interested parties – including county assessors and the Taxpayers’ Federation of Illinois – to try to settle on a methodology for assessing wind farms. The legislation is House Bill 380.
The negotiating group has decided that the assessment should be based on the cost of construction. Mautino said his legislation would specify a number – still subject to change – to represent the cost of construction, and a formula then would be applied to come up with a final calculation.
Mautino said he favors legislative language that would, in effect, translate to an assessment of about $17,000 for each 2-megawatt wind tower – or about $8,500 per megawatt.
He expects the assessment issue to get resolved before lawmakers conclude their spring legislative session, slated to adjourn at the end of May.
“I will have a bill by the end of this session where we have a straight methodology, so you know if you’re putting up a windmill, this is how you calculate your tax,” Mautino said. “We’re very, very close to that right now.”
Bureau County Assessor Tom Sweeney praised Mautino and other lawmakers who have been trying for the past few years to decide on how to assess wind farms.
Because more and more developers have shown interest in locating wind farms in Illinois, the question of assessment is “really a critical issue,” Sweeney said.
“There’s proposed projects now that are literally going up all over the state, so this issue really needs to be resolved pretty shortly, I would think,” he added.
Rep. Donald Moffitt, R-Gilson, said he plans to sign on as a co-sponsor of Mautino’s bill.
“There needs to be a level playing field, and it needs to be uniform across the state, not 102 ways to assess,” Moffitt said. “In fairness to all parties involved, we need to say: Here are the rules.”
Illinois’ tax structure for wind farms must be “fair and comparable” to the tax structures in other states, he said, adding: “If we do that, I think this is a real growth industry.”
Moffitt also wants lawmakers to create a fund that would cover the costs of decommissioning a wind farm that ceases operations.
By Adriana Colindres
Copley News Service
31 March 2007
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