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Several tax districts in Kittitas County must refund hundreds of thousands of tax dollars to Sagebrush Power Partners, owners of Kittitas Valley Wind Farm.
The wind farm successfully appealed to the state for a revaluation of its property tax for 2013 and 2014, according to county officials.
Thorp School District will need to pay back almost $30,000 and Cle Elum-Roslyn School District will need to refund more than $100,000. Kittitas County must refund just over $160,000. Others that will need to repay money: Fire District 1, $22,000; Fire District 7, $4,000; Hospital District 1, $22,000; and the state school fund, $160,000. The total amounts to $501,333, according to information from the county.
Kittitas County Assessor Marsha Weyand and Kittitas County Treasurer Brett Wachsmith addressed the Thorp School Board on Tuesday. Their offices are collaborating to work through the issue.
The tax districts also possibly may need to pay interest on the refund.
Most of the wind turbines and other equipment are in the Cle Elum-Roslyn School District, which is why it owes substantially more than Thorp.
Sagebrush appealed for a revaluation of its property tax for tax years 2013 and 2014. The owners believed they paid tax on more value than what they should have.
The wind turbines are personal property. The appeal was for the value of equipment, machinery and infrastructure of wind farm. Sagebrush did not appeal land value.
At a hearing with the county Board of Equalization in 2013, Sagebrush claimed “their income didn’t substantiate the value that we had on it,” Weyand said.
The Assessor’s Office agreed to review Sagebrush’s value if it made its income information available.
“They said they would share it, but we never did get it,” she said.
In 2014, in anticipation of another appeal, the assessor’s office asked the state Department of Revenue to do an advisory appraisal, during which Sagebrush shared its income information.
The state developed a value that Sagebrush and the assessor’s office agreed was fair.
“Their income wasn’t typical, and so their income did substantiate a lower value,” she said. “So now the (tax) districts involved have to pay them back.”
Whether the tax districts owe interest on the refunds they must pay is unknown, but is an issue Wachsmith is researching.
The updated, lower value was used to calculate 2015 and 2016 taxes.
School districts have the opportunity to recoup some of the money.
The school districts can re-levy for net loss of refunds paid plus offset by supplements to the tax roll in 2016. Thorp Superintendent Linda Martin said taxpayers already have approved a four-year, maximum capacity levy.
However, there is revenue available from open space removal taxes, funds that Thorp wasn’t budgeting for and counting on but is entitled to because the land was sold and became taxed at a higher rate, Wachsmith said.
Thorp received $78,000 in 2013 and $104,400 in 2014 from open space removal.
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