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Push came to shove: Gratiot will fight turbine tax cuts

Who’s behind the recent state tax commission ruling on the diminished wind turbine taxes is a mystery.

“There’s a rat in the woodpile and we’re going to flush ‘em out,” said Gratiot County Commission Chair Jeff Anderson.

The state tax commission changed the tax rates late last year on wind turbines.

Instead of 100 percent taxes, Gratiot County will now receive 80 percent. And, instead of depreciation taking place at 5 percent a year, it will go down to 30 percent after just six years.

“We will see a 27 percent decrease in taxes,” said County Administrator Nicole Frost.

Frost, along with several other representatives from other counties and townships filed a Freedom of Information request with the tax commission. Whenever there is a change in the tax rules, the agency must supply a reason for the change.

When the group asked for the reason, the response from the tax commission stated that no documents exist.

After a meeting last week with the Michigan Township Association and the Michigan Association of Counties, a lawyer hired by MTA advised them that they have to submit a differently worded FOIA request.

This time they are to ask for documents related to any studies that may have been completed, instead of studies completed by the tax commission, their first request.

Another plan in the works is to get an appraisal of the turbines, since none exist now, Frost said.

Appraisers from Wheeler and Bethany townships in Gratiot will use the old tax depreciation tables and not the new ones, Frost said they were advised.

Once that is submitted, and no challenges are made, the county wins.

If there is a challenge however, justification will be needed. Furthermore, at that point, whoever is in favor of the tax cuts will be smoked out.

County officials say that the energy and utility companies have strongly stated that they have not pushed for this tax cut. If they did, other counties and townships would not look so favorably on placing turbines in their locations.

Townships and counties are presenting a united front, Frost said.

The second FOIA request was submitted on Friday. The state has five days to respond but may ask for a ten day extension.

Tax bills are scheduled to be sent out March 1, she added.

In the meantime, the county waits.