Huron County’s years-long dispute about wind turbine taxes is finally coming to an end.
Commissioner Mary Babcock announced this week that a draft agreement has been reached between DTE and 17 townships to resolve the issue of wind turbine taxation.
Babcock said key elements of the agreement were negotiated by the Michigan Renewable Energy Collaborative, which include a refund of a fraction of the outstanding claims of between the years 2016 and 2021. The new multiplier table used for assessing taxable values for turbines will be used for existing appeals and through 2036, which would include any new DTE wind parks.
“Once approved by the townships and DTE, the final terms will be entered before the state tax tribunal,” Babcock said. “The proposed settlement ends six years of litigation with DTE and for the next 15 years.”
Babcock also said this would provide the local taxing entities dependent on wind turbine taxes, including the county, townships, the Huron Intermediate School District, other school districts, and libraries with certainty in their budgets.
Babcock said the final details of the agreement were not ready yet for public viewing. When asked by Commissioner Steve Vaughan if other utility companies would follow this agreement, she said she does not know.
This past June, the Michigan Tax Tribunal issued an opinion and judgement on this issue in favor of DTE, which had sued to lower its tax commitments to the townships, county, and schools, the first such commercial wind turbine tax appeal in the state to proceed to hearing. The ruling stated that the county would have to pay back taxes at 6% interest for 2016 and 2017, which would be between $60,000 and $70,000 for both Bloomfield and Sigel townships.
The ruling potentially had taxing units owe over $1 million to DTE for the time period of 2016-2021.
Bloomfield and Sigel townships filed an appeal against the ruling, saying they were owed back taxes. Bloomfield has 41 turbines between three different wind farms within its borders, while Sigel has 24 as part of the DTE Sigel wind farm.
New uniform statewide turbine taxation rules were also introduced in September in the state House of Representatives, which sets a table of decreasing value of 5% per year over a 15-year period, then has the turbines taxed at 30% their original value after 15 years until they are decommissioned. It has since been referred to the tax policy committee, with no vote taken on it yet.
Huron County has been dealing with taxation issues surrounding the turbines since 2011, when the state tax commission lowered the taxable value of wind turbines to 80% of their value on initial assessment, with a depreciation value to 30% their value after six years.
Babcock said that this week, the townships involved would all be getting this information and make the decision on signing the agreement at their meetings.
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