With a solar or wind power operation, an "expressly tax exempt" project requires the power be used as a primary or auxiliary energy system and be "utilized to supply the energy needs of a property that is subject to Massachusetts property tax," the ATB said. Its ruling cited the bank as such a taxpayer. It also called the relevant language "unambiguous" under "Clause Forty-Fifth" of the applicable Massachusetts General Laws. The Board of Assessors appealed on Oct. 19.
SWANSEA – State substantiation of a hefty tax abatement, citizen appeal for financial remedy on the allegedly over-taxed solar farm and assessors’s subsequent appeal brings an executive session Tuesday night at which 11 town officials and their lawyers have been invited.
The Boards of assessors and selectmen are slated to meet jointly without the public at 6 p.m. at the School Administration Building following an Oct. 13 unanimous decision by the Massachusetts Appellate Tax Board.
ATB Chairman Thomas Hammond Jr. signed a nine-page “finding of facts” in which the five-member board “found and ruled” to uphold appeal by Timothy and Kerri Cabral of 222 Baker Road.
The couple’s petition pertains to the 65-acre solar farm they developed across the road from their house to produce electricity for their home and, more substantially, for five branches of Fall River Five Cents Savings Bank, the ATB ruling says.
The agreement between the Cabrals and Five Cents Savings has been in effect since May 2013.
The Board of Assessors first valued the solar property that year at more than $3.5 million and assessed the entities – KTT LLC and Baker Road Solar Farm LLC – $82,833, the ATB findings said.
A few months later, assessors reduced their assessment by about two-thirds to $1.2 million.
The Cabrals appealed that amount also, saying they’re exempt under state law.
Their lawyer Nicholas Bernier attached an appeal to the ATB ruling saying the Board of Assessors “refuses” to abate inappropriate taxes paid since fiscal 2014.
Board of Selectmen Chairman Robert Marquis said the amount the Cabrals seek returned from the town is in excess of $100,000.
That will bring the three members of the two boards, Town Administrator John McAuliffe, Principal Assessor Stanley Nacewicz, full-time assessor Richard Follet, their lawyer Michael Siddall and Town Solicitor Arthur Frank to the invited closed meeting, according to assessors Chairman Wayne Gray.
At issue is state law governing electricity usage by a taxpayer, the ATB says.
How binding that decision is remains to be seen.
Siddall and Bernier could not be reached for immediate comment Monday afternoon.
With a solar or wind power operation, an “expressly tax exempt” project requires the power be used as a primary or auxiliary energy system and be “utilized to supply the energy needs of a property that is subject to Massachusetts property tax,” the ATB said.
Its ruling cited the bank as such a taxpayer. It also called the relevant language “unambiguous” under “Clause Forty-Fifth” of the applicable Massachusetts General Laws.
The Board of Assessors appealed on Oct. 19.
“If it’s applicable law, why do we continue to fight it?” Marquis said. “I’m anxious to hear why they have an intent to pursue this particular issue.”
Gray shed little light on their position, and Nacewicz, the principal assessor, did not immediately return phone calls for comment.
“It is under appeal,” Gray said. “We’re listening to the attorney handling this for us.”
Gray said he hoped the two boards would “work together’ to “hopefully do what’s in the best interests of the town.”
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