County to vote on tax abatements
Credit: Staff Report | Jacksboro Herald-Gazette | Wednesday, June 30, 2021 | www.jacksboronewspapers.com ~~
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Jack County Commissioners will hold a meeting at 10 a.m. Monday, July 12 to consider the application of Lasso Wind, LLC, for the designation of a certain area of the county as a reinvestment zone for tax abatement.
Ever since the company submitted its application, commissioners have been met by a vocal opposition group.
North Texas Heritage Association (NTHA) members have been urging Jack County officials to not allow a wind farm to set up shop in the north part of the county, claiming they are trying to preserve their land.
“Our purpose is to promote, encourage and pass down to our children the traditional values of a rural lifestyle, to protect our economy, our environment, our health and our beautiful land,” the association’s website says. “To this end, we choose to oppose the construction of industrial wind farm complexes in Clay, Jack and Montague counties.”
Jack County is already home to three different wind farm sites, with the Barton Chapel Wind Farm in southern Jack County; the Keechi Wind Farm about 5 miles south of Jacksboro, and the Senate Wind Farm in Bryson.
Byron Barton is one of the founding members of the NTHA, which was formed in 2019. NTHA, according to its LLC listing, is registered to an address in Bowie, in Montague County.
Earlier this year, the association held a number of public meetings where Barton spoke, encouraging the public to get involved and express their concern about the county potentially luring any wind farm group into the county with tax abatements.
Such an abatement can cut taxes for companies wanting to do business in an area for up to a 10-year period normally.
Counties, cities and special taxing districts are the only entities that can grant abatements. An abatement grants a business a break from a certain percentage of taxes over a period of up to 10 years. That business often makes payments known as PILOT payments each year in that period. The taxis entities to not physically give a business money in a tax abatement.
In early March, Barton spoke to Jacksboro ISD school board about the wind farm and why his association opposes it.
Barton said school districts are their allies because of our “teachers teaching the values that we hold dear.”
According to Texas School for Economic Development, “Chapter 313 allows school districts, under specific conditions, to limit the taxable value of a business with respect to M&O taxes for a period of ten years. For example, a qualifying business that is investing $150 million in capital improvements can apply for a value limitation that instead would cap its M&O taxable value at $30 million for ten years, after which the business would begin paying taxes on the full appraised value. I&S taxes would be paid on the full value of $150 million.”
At an event in February, Barton spoke to a group of citizens, stating “no one wants to sit around and look at a turbine…” and that “80% of people never go back to an area that has a turbine in it.”
NTHA members have flooded the commissioners courtroom for the last few months, speaking for hours on why the court should not grant the abatement.
At the end of March, the county heard from representatives from NTHA, who said the financial good the wind farms provide doesn’t outweigh the negatives such as agricultural and tourism.
County Judge Keith Umphress said EDF Renewables, which is working with consulting firms locally to get the wind farm built, has said preliminary negotiations are going nowhere.
“They basically lowballed us.” Umphress said. “I’ve spoken with every (county) just from here to Pecos County and they felt the same. Until we get fair market value or better, we’re just not receptive, period.”
The county is working with Attorney Robert Bass, Jr., with Allison, Bass & Magee, LLP, of Austin. Bass also represents Young County in its negotiations with Young wind LLC regarding aproposed wind farm in parts of Graham and Newcastle.
Umphress said if the wind farm doesn’t want to come of up the ante, that’s fine with him.
“I’m the Chief Financial Officer of the county. Right now what they’re telling us, they don’t want to come here,” Umphress said. “I have five other projects that I’m beginning to have conversations with. Why would I take their lowball offer? If it’s not in the best interest of the county, we’re not doing it.”
“They’re (EDF) going to have to work harder to get my interest.”
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