What appeared to be an early Christmas present has turned into an unholy mess, as Wind Capital Group dropped off its property tax payment to DeKalb County on Thursday.
Receiving two checks totaling $1,967,572, delivered to the DeKalb County Courthouse by Stephen Bode, Wind Capital Group operations manager, county officials aren’t sure if they can distribute any of it.
Though the attitudes remain heated between the county and wind farm company, which runs the Lost Creek Wind Farm, over a property tax assessment, County Assessor Ruth Ross was originally pleased to see the company pay part of what she said it owes.
While awaiting judgment from the Missouri State Tax Commission concerning property tax assessment, more than $1 million of the paid taxes will be placed in an escrow account. Not disputing the remaining $951,021.62, the amount Wind Capital Group stated it feels is the correct total it should pay, it was expected to go immediately to DeKalb taxing entities such as schools and fire protection.
“I think this is a wonderful thing that Wind Capital is doing. They’re not disputing it all, and the taxing entities of Missouri will benefit greatly from that money … being dispersed before the first of the year,” she said.
That may not be the case, County Treasurer Jody Pearl stated, as she considered Ms. Ross’ information conflicting with what she was told – that all of the money, including the undisputed amount, would go into the escrow account.
“According to my attorney, (it will) not (be distributed) without an order from the State Tax Commission instructing me how to distribute it,” she said.
Citing Missouri State Statute 139.031, concerning disbursement of tax money during a dispute, Ms. Ross said the undisputed money should be ready to be sent out. In the meantime, she will be contacting her attorney to see what can be done.
Though Ms. Ross was smiling when talking about the schools, fire and police receiving money, she made it clear that issues with the company are anything but dashed.
In a release, Wind Capital stated its pride in paying what it felt was a fair share of the property tax and doing so in a timely manner. “Wind Capital Group believes very strongly in paying our fair share of property taxes in DeKalb County and has now done so,” Mr. Bode said. “For the Lost Creek Project, we have now paid more in property taxes than has ever been paid on a wind energy project in the state of Missouri.”
Considering the company’s statement a misnomer, Ms. Ross said the reason they’re paying more is because they have three times the wind turbines as any other wind farm in the state, and they’re still asking to pay less.
“I always take exception to the fact that they’re paying a lot more taxes to DeKalb County than they are to other counties,” she said. “That’s like you buying a new car and me buying three new cars and I’m expecting my taxes to be the same as yours.”
The company is disputing Ms. Ross’ assessed property tax value of about $297,000 per wind turbine, an amount she came to when using a formula created by former Wind Capital Group CEO Tom Carnahan. Assessors in several other counties in Northwest Missouri with wind farms have told the News-Press they used the same formula as Holt County, without conflict.
Protesting the proposed tax assessment, Wind Capital stated Ms. Ross’ formula is overblown and should be about $142,000. The case awaits a decision from the tax commission.
“We’re still a long ways from being settled, but I want to commend Wind Capital for letting us at least distribute that amount,” Ms. Ross said.
“It will be a huge benefit. Not as much as we would like, but it’s a step.”