Adair and Schuyler county stakeholders met Monday to consider a strategy that would keep the tax benefits of a proposed wind farm in the two counties, rather than distributing it across the state.
The meeting was facilitated by K-REDI Executive Director Carolyn Chrisman and attended by representatives from the Adair and Schuyler county commissions, the Adair and Schuyler school districts, Ameren Missouri, Terra Gen, and Rep. Sam Graves’ office, along with Republican county commissioner candidate Mark Shahan and Republican state senate candidate Cindy O’Laughlin.
The meeting’s attendees had the goal in mind of keeping tax revenues from the proposed High Prairie wind farm project in Adair and Schuyler counties, rather than disbursing the tax benefit across the state of Missouri. Because the project will be purchased by Ameren Missouri, a public utility company, after its construction, its taxes would currently be assessed at the state level.
Chrisman said that while researching the issue, she found every neighboring state assesses wind farm projects at least partially on the county level. However, she was the unique nature of the High Prairie project means there is no precedent in Missouri for how it should be treated.
“It’s uncharted waters,” Chrisman said. “This is going to be the first publicly owned wind farm in the state of Missouri.”
The state law would likely have to be changed to exempt wind energy from the rules governing taxing utilities.
Annette Sweet, who represented Ameren Misosuri at the meeting and is also a member of K-REDI, said the company is willing to have taxes assessed on the county or state level, although they may save money if the counties are the assessors.
“We’re trying to stay neutral either way,” Sweet said.
Steve May, a representative from Terra Gen, said his company would also be on board with the idea. Terra Gen plans to construct the wind farm, which would be the largest in the state, before selling it to Ameren. The project is awaiting Missouri Public Service Commission approval before it moves forward.
“We see the benefits of it being taxed at the local level,” May said.
Participants at the meeting discussed possible approaches to changing the law, either through amending an existing law or passing a new one, and the possibility of recruiting county commissioners from other counties where wind farms may be constructed in the future, including Knox and Sullivan, to join the effort.
O’Laughlin said counties should receive tax benefits because they will be the ones affected by factors like wear and tear on county roads, as well as the ones who will see wind turbines in their area.
“We are changing the entire face of the rural landscape,” O’Laughlin said. “So the people who are living with that should also be the ones benefitting.”
Sweet said tax experts from Ameren would be willing to meet with state tax assessors and stakesholders from Adair and Schuyler to determine the precise numbers involved and the ideal path forward, which would consider keeping the full amount of tax dollars in the counties as well as alternatives like assessing the tax burden at the state level but allocating a specific percentage to the counties. County commissioners from Adair and Schuyler agreed to schedule a meeting.
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