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Wind turbines are a poor income source

Our commissioners have consistently told us they were desperate to find replacement income for Howard County during the 2009 financial crisis when it looked like we might lose our two largest employers. Among the companies they found willing to come here was the wind developer who wanted to place wind turbines in the eastern part of Howard County.

For some time, I’ve been trying to determine how our county finances might benefit from these turbines, and recent help from several sources, including a Tipton commissioner, has shown that my calculation process is correct. Let me give you some property tax revenue figures, and you can decide for yourself how significant they are and whether they are worth the problems being reported by our Tipton County neighbors.

Changes to the county setback rules mean there will be fewer than the original 124 turbines here and the new number is unknown. So, let me give you the expected property tax revenue for 124 and 50 turbines. As these figures are fully scalable, you can easily determine the revenue whenever the new number is announced.

For 124 turbines, the property tax revenue starts at just over $91,000 a year and ramps up to $570,000 in the 11th year. The total income received over the first 10 years will be about $3.2 million.

For 50 turbines, the numbers are $37,000, $230,000 and $1.3 million. These figures must be judged against the needs of our county, which had a budget in 2012 of $41.8 million.

There are several other revenue sources including income and property taxes on the company, employees and leaseholders, and my annual estimate of those is about $425,000. So, if $5 million in tax revenue per year can be considered a significant figure and we are willing to wait 10 years to reach that level, how many turbines will it take? The answer is 622, and it implies they would need to be placed all over our county. Certainly this demonstrates how poor an income source turbines are.

More than once, these property tax numbers have been presented to the Commissioners who did not challenge them. Given such a weak income stream, questions must be raised over what the other benefits are we are not hearing about.

Tom Cornell, Greentown