DIXON – School districts and other taxing bodies should consider wind farms a stable source of tax revenue, a Lee County official says.
As such, the county doesn’t need to enact a separate regulation that ensures the same amount of tax revenue comes in, County Assessor Wendy Ryerson said.
The county gets thousands of dollars a year in tax revenue for each wind turbine – about half of which goes to schools.
Last week, Ryerson spoke to the county Zoning Board of Appeals, which is considering changes to the county’s ordinance that deals with wind energy.
It is basing its review on a proposed Ogle County ordinance. Under that proposal, if the state changes its law for taxing of wind turbines and that results in less revenue, the county would continue to get the same amount as before.
Ryerson said the county shouldn’t adopt such a provision. It’s unenforceable because it would be outside the state’s laws for collecting taxes, she said.
“Why adopt something that has no teeth?” she asked.
Ryerson played a major role a few years ago in the state’s drafting of a law for taxing wind farms. The law was largely modeled after Lee County’s procedure. Ryerson has spoke throughout the state about it.
“Lee County’s rules were accepted by wind farms and tax entities. The definition of a perfect compromise is that no one walks away completely happy,” she said.
She also said she doubted the state would change the law in question because it’s a workable solution.
The one major change from Lee County’s rules was that the state allowed depreciation of 4 percent over 25 years of turbines. But that is offset by the consumer price index, which is often around the same percent, although not in recent years, Ryerson said.
If wind turbines are still operating, they can’t be depreciated by more than 70 percent, she said.
“Running the math, we predicted that this would be a stable revenue source,” Ryerson said.
During the Zoning Board meeting, State’s Attorney Henry Dixon was asked about the legal issue involving the proposed provision.
“Wendy Ryerson speaks from a position of intellectual authority on this subject,” Dixon said.
Ron Conderman, the board’s chairman, didn’t want the provision in Lee County’s ordinance. He deferred to the assessor.
“No sense in muddying up the water,” he said.
He called for a vote, but members decided to address the issue at a later meeting.
The Lee County Zoning Board of Appeals meets at 7 p.m. Nov. 3 in the County Board meeting room on the third floor of the Old County Courthouse, 112 E. Second St.
For more information, go to www.countyoflee.org or call the zoning office at 815-288-3643.
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