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Windmill tax for schools still alive

Nearly two dozen school districts in southern Minnesota would have hundreds of thousands of dollars restored to their budgets next year under a tax provision passed in the state Senate on Wednesday. An amendment, introduced by Sen. Dan Sparks of Austin, would restore to school districts the revenue generated by an energy production tax on wind farms. Triton, Grand Meadow and Southland are among the 22 districts that would benefit from this revenue stream at a time when schools are struggling financially, legislators say. ...Those odds are still considered long. Spark's amendment passed by only a single vote, while exposing a deep regional rift between rural and metro legislators.

Nearly two dozen school districts in southern Minnesota would have hundreds of thousands of dollars restored to their budgets next year under a tax provision passed in the state Senate on Wednesday.

An amendment, introduced by Sen. Dan Sparks of Austin, would restore to school districts the revenue generated by an energy production tax on wind farms. Triton, Grand Meadow and Southland are among the 22 districts that would benefit from this revenue stream at a time when schools are struggling financially, legislators say.

"At least, it allows us to keep the discussion alive," said Sparks, an Austin Democrat. "Hopefully, we can hold on to it."

Those odds are still considered long. Spark's amendment passed by only a single vote, while exposing a deep regional rift between rural and metro legislators.

Metro legislators are generally antagonistic to the wind energy production tax, believing that it exclusively benefits rural districts where wind farms are located.

But rural superintendents argue that their schools are merely benefiting from the economic development taking place in their districts -- a situation no different from a property tax-rich school district... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Nearly two dozen school districts in southern Minnesota would have hundreds of thousands of dollars restored to their budgets next year under a tax provision passed in the state Senate on Wednesday.

An amendment, introduced by Sen. Dan Sparks of Austin, would restore to school districts the revenue generated by an energy production tax on wind farms. Triton, Grand Meadow and Southland are among the 22 districts that would benefit from this revenue stream at a time when schools are struggling financially, legislators say.

"At least, it allows us to keep the discussion alive," said Sparks, an Austin Democrat. "Hopefully, we can hold on to it."

Those odds are still considered long. Spark's amendment passed by only a single vote, while exposing a deep regional rift between rural and metro legislators.

Metro legislators are generally antagonistic to the wind energy production tax, believing that it exclusively benefits rural districts where wind farms are located.

But rural superintendents argue that their schools are merely benefiting from the economic development taking place in their districts -- a situation no different from a property tax-rich school district benefiting from a nuclear power plant within its boundaries.

The problem is rooted in this history of wind farms. Back in the 1990s, the state sought to encourage the development of wind farms by exempting them from property taxes.

"If this were a two million dollar building, it would pay property taxes, and a portion of those would go to the school, but it's not. It's a windmill," said GOP Senate Minority Leader Dave Senjem.

School districts would receive only a modest amount of money under the wind power production tax, but it would likely grow over time.

"It's a small amount of money, but for the small, rural districts that are really struggling, they were really counting on this money," Sparks said. Without those wind dollars, Grand Meadow Public Schools Superintendent Joe Brown says his district would lose an estimated $50,000 and have to eliminate a teaching position. That would make it more difficult for the district to achieve its goals with regard to math and science.

As the wind farm industry develops, those dollars are expected to grow. Senjem said 700 wind turbines are planned near Hayfield, a project that would nicely benefit the district in the area, he said.

The provision was in the omnibus tax conference committee report last session before being yanked in the waning hours, reportedly at the behest of state Education Commissioner Alice Seagren. Rural legislators since then have vainly tried to amend this year's tax bill to restore it.

Senjem had tried twice and failed, he said. This time around, he gave the bill to Sparks in the belief that a DFL legislator might carry more weight in the DFL-controlled Senate.

The omnibus tax bill now heads to conference committee. "We got a chance at it," Senjem said.

 


Source: http://news.postbulletin.co...

MAY 8 2008
http://www.windaction.org/posts/14870-windmill-tax-for-schools-still-alive
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