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Wind farm talk continues

Dan Casey, a representative of Moak, Casey & Associates, was present to speak to the Olney ISD Board of Trustees about the financial impact of the proposed wind farm project on the school district during the group’s regular meeting on Monday, July 14.
The school district heard the initial proposal from BP Alternative Energy at the board’s June 26 meeting. At that meeting, the energy company said the project would involve placing around 85 wind turbines on land in Young and Archer counties that would tie into power lines leading from Graham northward. In all, 31 landowners would be affected by the project, which would add $375 million value to Olney ISD’s tax roll.
BP Alternative Energy sought a tax abatement through a School Value Limitation Agreement, which would allow the company to pay 40 percent of what its property taxes would be to Olney ISD in exchange for a 10 year tax abatement. The company said they would be paying approximately $9 million to Olney ISD over the 10 year period.

During the abatement period, the district will continue to receive all state funding it currently receives. After the 10 year period, the money will be added onto the school’s tax roll and will be subject to recapture by the state, leaving OISD in the same position it is currently in.
At Monday’s meeting, Casey spoke to the board for more than two hours regarding the process the district would need to undergo for its part of the project, and also about other school districts that have approved abatements for wind farms.
“They are the leading experts on school finance in the state,” Superintendent Tom Bailey said. “He talked to us about the financial impact to the school district if the wind farm comes to pass.”
Bailey said Moak, Casey & Associates will lead OISD through the process, and will be working closely with an attorney in Austin. The firm has served as the financial consultant for over 80 percent of the wind farm projects completed in Texas, Bailey said.
Casey did give one different number from those given by BP Alternative Energy. According to Casey’s calculations, Olney ISD would stand to earn approximately $10,151,525 over the 10 year period, rather than around $9 million.

“Mr. Casey brought us the numbers and information from our perspective,” Bailey explained. “It was essentially the same as we heard before. It was just a different way of looking at things.”
A proposed tax rate was also discussed at Monday’s meeting. The board proposed the same tax rate as was approved last year: $1.375 per $100 valuation. That amount will once again include $1.17 per $100 valuation for maintenance and operations, and $0.2050 for interest and sinking.
A hearing on the property tax rate will be held Monday, Aug. 25.
Later, Bailey gave a facilities update. He said new carpet is being installed at Olney High School, and all lockers have been painted Cub red. A new sound system and new curtains have been ordered for the auditorium, and the district is working with an architectural firm to renovate the auditorium’s foyer.
He also noted that renovations to the old band hall, located on the north end of the old gym, are nearly complete. The space will be used as the music room for Olney Elementary School. Options regarding renovation or replacement of the tennis courts were discussed, but no action was taken.
Later, trustees discussed implementing a drug testing policy for Olney ISD. No action was taken at Monday’s meeting, but Bailey said the board will vote on the matter at an upcoming meeting.
In other business:
• Trustees also reviewed the appraised property values given by the Texas Comptroller’s office, as compared to values assigned by the Young County Appraisal District. Bailey said the values were within acceptable ranges, so the district will be able to use local appraised values.
• Minutes from the Big 4 Special Education Co-op meeting were approved, as were minutes from previous board meetings.
• A resolution was passed to allow for the auction of surplus property at the Masonic Auction in Graham.
• Trustees gave the state-required yearly evaluation of the superintendent.
• During personnel items, the board approved the resignation of Alicia Hostas, sixth grade English teacher.
The Olney ISD Board of Trustees will hold a called meeting at noon Friday, July 18. The next regular meeting will be Monday, Aug. 25.

Mindi Kimbro

The Olney Enterprise

17 July 2008