In the first step of many to come before the proposed wind farm could come to fruition, the McCulloch County Commissioners adopted new guidelines and criteria for providing tax abatements in areas of the county deemed non-municipal.
The commissioners broke twice during Monday’s regularly scheduled meeting—the first time to await the arrival and subsequent presentation from Wes Jackson, representing Renewable Energy Systems (RES)—the company requesting the tax abatement from the county to construct the turbines, and the second time to make the necessary adjustments to the county’s previously utilized abatement guidelines/criteria.
Aiding the county in creating the new guidelines were replicas of previously adopted documentation from other counties within the state who have already approved tax abatements for wind farms such as the one proposed for McCulloch County.
After a two-hour meeting early Monday, the commissioners broke for lunch and returned to revisit the newly-revised item and officially approved the item.
The formal action taken in the meeting will be the county’s first before moving forward in the request for tax abatement. The next action the commissioners will need to consider will be to create a reinvestment zone, and according to Jackson, the most popular method for adopting a reinvestment zone is to approve one on a countywide level so that the steps will already be in place if another entity approaches the county in the future with a request for yet another tax abatement.
“The good thing about this project (to me) is that,by the benefit of the tax money and the enormous value of the project, it spreads that benefit to every person in the county through tax reduction,” said McCulloch County Judge Randy Young. “We want new money pumped into the community.”
Now that the new guidelines and criteria for tax abatements have been approved, and if the commissioners create the reinvestment zone when
they meet in regular session in two weeks, according to Jackson, the next step would be to notify other taxing entities within the county (excluding the school districts) in writing and advertise a notice in the newspaper stating the county’s intent to create the reinvestment zone.
“We’re asking that the county create the reinvestment zone and then the others schools and taxing entities can levy off of the county,” said
If the commissioners approves the reinvestment zone in their next meeting, the next step in the process could be to consider approval of the abatement request.
In his address to the commissioners Monday morning, Jackson also presented an alternative proposal for the county—more of a sliding scale—for collecting revenue from the creation of the wind farm.
According to Jackson, it would average the same percentage over the life of the contract (10 years), the only difference is this one is more front loaded and steps down.
“I’ve done some number crunching, and there is a slight benefit to RES to do it this way, but I don’t think it makes much difference. I believe, it does make it easier for this court to run the county in future years.
The previously presented request could create an up and down fluctuation in the tax increase, where the sliding scale could provide the county with a steady increase.
“This doesn’t put us at a competitive advantage over other wind farms,” said Jackson. “Almost all the comments I have heard have been positive, very few negative. I wish that it (the terms for the county) was even a little bit better, but these are competitive terms and nothing more.
“Tax abatements are always given as an incentive to tilt the scales,” said Young. “This is as pure an incentive as we have ever had presented to us.”
“They (RES) are trying to reduce the expenses as much as possible and that’s where the tax abatement comes in,” said Jackson after explaining
that one of the most expensive components to a project such as this are the subsequent taxes that follow.
“It is in our interest to get the most taxes we can—up to the point where the project is still viable and saleable,” said Young. “Nobody benefits if we push it too far. We don’t want to be penny-wise and
foolish on this deal. I want it to be a good enough deal that these things are installed and it is competitive.”
While the commissioners will need to determine which abatement option is best suited for the county, Jackson reiterated several times in the
meeting that in whatever the county chooses, it won’t be that critical to the project one way or another.
“It is a little advantageous to do the sliding scale,” he told the group; however, RES is receptive to either option.
If the project does come to fruition in the county, approximately 100 turbines will be built during a six-to nine-month project.
By Amanda Howell
9 October 2007
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