2012-11-29 / Front Page

Wind farm tax questions arise

Officials explain lower tax revenue payments for 2012

GARDEN – Lower than expected tax revenue from the Garden Wind Farm should be no cause for concern, according to officials. The recent release of figures from the 2012 tax capture caused confusion among some Garden Township residents.

“We’re just paying what we get billed,” Heritage Sustainable Energy Vice President Rick Wilson recently explained.

Heritage, which owns and operates the turbines on leased land, has only been billed for the personal property tax of one turbine and one substation, Wilson said. The remaining 13 turbines which comprise the farm haven’t been assessed yet, and, therefore, Heritage has not paid personal property tax on the structures.

According to Wilson, township residents should be receiving published information on what the expected tax base will be and a detailed breakdown of what amount will go to the various entities in the township.

In this publication, the company estimates Big Bay de Noc School will be receiving approximately $64,053 for operating expenses in a 2013 tax payment from the farm. The school will also receive $38,788 for their sinking fund. The township fire department will receive close to $61,000. Other entities round out the tax payment distribution to an estimated total of $334,834 in 2013. The company projects all entities able to collect tax revenue from the farm will receive over $4.5 million during the next 20 years.

This amount is despite the fact the Michigan State Tax Commission recently dropped the assessed value of each turbine erected from 100 to 80 percent, explained Wilson. The change to the assessment of the turbine means that, on the day the turbine is erected and functional, it is already at 80 percent of its value.

According to Garden Township Assessor Joe Maki, the turbines also face a more rapid depreciation schedule, meaning each year, the turbines will be worth less and less. However, these figures will not affect the original tax revenue estimates and those currently in place by Heritage, Wilson explained, noting the company had factored the commission’s 2011 change in before making the calculations.

As for the current tax payments received by the township entities, Maki noted he was only able to include in the 2012 payments what was up and running on the farm as of “Tax Day” or on Dec. 31, 2011. On this year’s December tax day, also on the 31st, he explained the remainder of the turbines would be assessed and entities can expect the original estimated payments in 2013.

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