Library filed under Taxes & Subsidies from Maine
Freedom residents wondering how their taxes could have gone up this year despite a new $10 million wind development crowded into the Dirigo Grange Hall Sept. 30 expecting to have questions answered by an official from the Property Tax Division of the Maine Revenue Service. But the official never turned up, and the meeting that followed was fraught with speculation, suspicion and accusations, mostly to do with the wind turbines.
Franklin County can expect to get $200,000 a year for 20 years to use for economic development in the unorganized territory in the tax break deal struck with the owner of the Kibby Wind Power Project going up near the Canadian border. This week, county commissioners moved forward on their plans to have Greater Franklin Development Corporation administer that annual amount.
Freedom residents who hoped the wind turbines on Beaver Ridge would bring a lower tax bill got a surprise this year as other factors sucked up most of the windfall. ...Freedom town officials, with help from the state, valued the Beaver Ridge development at $9.7 million and the Central Maine Power transmission lines running up the ridge at an additional $480,000. But the value added to the town made barely a dent in the mill rate, which went from 17 to 15.5.
Residents voted 36-10 during all-day voting Saturday to approve a tax increment financing deal the Board of Selectmen negotiated with First Wind of Massachusetts for the town portion of the company's Rollins Mountain project. First Wind plans to build 40 1½-megawatt turbines along the Rollins Mountain ridgelines that run through Burlington, Lee, Lincoln and Winn.
The town of Freedom continues to work on the question of how to tax three wind turbines built last fall. Before any taxes can be levied, the town must decide how much the development is worth. In a statement submitted to the town, Beaver Ridge Wind LLC - named for the location of the wind development - declared the cost of the turbines to be $9,765,826, or $2,170 per kilowatt.
Town Councilor Rod Carr recused himself from a 4-2 vote awarding First Wind of Massachusetts a 20-year tax break Monday after he was accused of a conflict of interest in working as a paid lobbyist for landowners who would benefit from the project. ...Carr denied any unethical conduct, saying that he was "really disappointed" at being accused after more than 20 years of honest public service to the town. He recused himself after a 15-minute recess in which he unsuccessfully attempted to telephone his attorney for advice.
A consulting firm will propose a tax-increment financing zone for representing Beaver Ridge Wind during a meeting tonight. Selectman Ron Price said Tuesday that the select board and the public alike will be able to comment on the proposals. The meeting in the basement of the Freedom Congregational Church begins at 6. Price said that Eaton Peabody of Augusta has put together TIF plans on behalf of the town.
With the Town Council's first try at negotiating a 20-year tax break for First Wind of Massachusetts essentially dead due to a deadlocked 3-3 council vote on March 9, councilors will meet Monday to resume talks with the wind- power proponent, officials said Thursday. The executive session is the meeting's sole purpose. No council votes are expected, Chairman Steve Clay said.
Sixteen residents crowded into the tiny Freedom Town Office for the most recent meeting of the Board of Selectors after word circulated that Selectman Ronald Price, who owns the land under the turbines, had called a special meeting with representatives of Eaton Peabody, a law firm hired by Competitive Energy Services, the parent company of wind developer Beaver Ridge Wind. The meeting was on the subject of establishing Tax Increment Financing (TIF) for the turbines.
It has been two years since Mars Hill started receiving 20 years of $500,000 in annual payments from a tax increment financing deal connected to First Wind of Massachusetts' 28-turbine wind farm, Town Manager Raymond Mersereau said Monday.
Most of the comments submitted to Franklin County commissioners prior to their vote this week approving a tax break for TransCanada's wind farm appear to oppose the deal, a review of the documents reveals. Commissioners Tuesday unanimously approved creation of a $9 million, 20- year tax break for TransCanada's 44-turbine project to be built in the unorganized Kibby and Skinner townships near the Canadian border. The debate over the tax issue elicited dozens of letters, public comments, emails and phone calls to the three commissioners and to the county office. ...Under the TIF, out of TransCanada's $22.2 million property taxes over 20 years, a maximum of $9 million will be returned to the company and Maine's Unorganized Territory will receive $9.3 million.
The Franklin County commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved creation of a 20-year tax break for TransCanada's Kibby Wind Power Project that will be built in the unorganized territory near the Canadian border. Public opposition to the deal has revolved around the $9 million of property taxes TransCanada would have paid on the $220 million taxable investment that under the Tax Increment Financing program, will be returned to the company. That money would have lowered municipality's county taxes substantially, local officials have said. ... Public comment at last week's public hearing was overwhelmingly opposed to the TIF.
Franklin County commissioners were urged Thursday night to reject a tax break for a Canadian wind-farm developer because the company didn't need "corporate welfare" and the project should rise or fall on its own merits. A majority of the 40 or so people speaking at a hearing on a 20-year tax agreement between Franklin County and TransCanada said the Canadian energy company could well afford to build the project. They also said a tax break was never discussed during the application process at the Maine Land Use Regulation Commission, and the company's wealth was touted at that time. ...Sure the county is going to get $4 million, Heeschen said, "but in order to do that we have to pay $9 million to the developer. If we didn't do the TIF, I believe the project would go on."
Franklin County commissioners will hold a public hearing Thursday on a proposed 20-year tax-increment financing agreement between the county and TransCanada, a Canadian-based energy company. TransCanada is proposing to build a 132 megawatt, 44-turbine commercial wind farm along Kibby Mountain and Kibby Range in Kibby and Skinner townships in northern Franklin County. The total investment to develop the project is estimated at $270 million. The hearing on the proposed Franklin County Enterprise Development and Tax Increment Financing District (TIF) will discuss the number below.
If the project goes forward with a TIF agreement, it is expected there would be an 8 percent decline in the tax rate in the unorganized territory in the first year, he said. The rate would drop from $8.08 per $1,000 of value to $7.43 per $1,000. According to Carrabassett Valley Town Manager Dave Cota, if there were no TIF, all municipalities would also see a decrease in county taxes. With a TIF, Cota said in a letter to commissioners, there would be a significant loss of property tax revenue and a corresponding tax shift back to Franklin County municipalities, especially high-valuation communities that will ultimately pay for the TIF. County Commissioner Gary McGrane said commissioners did listen to concerns from municipal leaders about the TIF and tried to make it fair for all.
If the proposed tax break for a Canadian energy company's 44-turbine wind farm in Northern Franklin County is approved, millions of dollars would be available to market the scenic attractions of the unorganized territory and promote economic development. ...The deal would give Franklin County $4 million a year of the "captured" property tax money to target economic development. Another $8.9 million would be returned annually to TransCanada to invest in the project. ..."I am shocked," Cota said. "Instead of giving property tax relief, we are getting these new programs when we need money for county services." He questions whether the new programs are really needed and if residents in the unorganized territory really want them. Dain Trafton of Phillips also argues that "putting money back into people's pockets" is the most beneficial thing to do. He said TransCanada had originally told the community the company had no plans to apply for a TIF. TransCanada's project director, Nick DiDomenico, has since said the company needs the tax break in light of soaring costs and a drop in the value of the dollar.
County commissioners unveiled a draft agreement Thursday for a tax-increment financing district that could bring the county up to $4 million over 20 years to use for economic development in unorganized territories. ...But Carrabassett Valley Town Manager Dave Cota said the draft agreement would shift more of the county tax burden to organized towns and let the company get away with not paying its fair share of taxes. Mitchell said the purpose was to reach a balanced agreement that would benefit all of the county directly and indirectly. The TIF would capture 75 percent of the new tax revenue for the first 10 years and 50 percent for the latter 10, with the county keeping 40 percent and TransCanada getting 60 percent. The remaining tax revenue gained would go into the state's unorganized territory fund.
The company's $220 million effort near the Canadian border will be in the spotlight at 6 p.m. upstairs in the Franklin County Courthouse on Main Street. The details of the tax-increment financing program will be unveiled by the county's consultant, Gregory Mitchell of Eaton Peabody Consulting Group. The public is invited to comment and suggestions could be incorporated into the draft proposal, said Commissioner Gary McGrane of Jay. A formal public hearing is set for May 29. The TIF proposal presented Thursday will include the percentage of the wind farm's annual $1.1 million property taxes that would be returned to the company for reinvestment into the project for the next 20 years.
Franklin County commissioners have scheduled a meeting March 25 to talk about the financial aspects of a tax-increment financing program for TransCanada's proposed Kibby wind power project in Franklin County. The plan is to talk about the project value, tax revenue projections and the impact on the county, state and the unorganized budgets, consultant Greg Mitchell said. He is working on behalf of the county to help negotiate a tax-increment financing deal between the Canadian company and the Franklin County Commission. ...The total cost of just the turbines is estimated to be more than $160 million, Di domenico said. The intent, if the project moves forward, Di domenico said, is to start development in August or September and to have half of the wind farm in service in 2009 and the other half in 2010. A TIF is only one element the corporate board will be looking at in the cost analysis of the project, but it is not the only deciding factor, Di domenico said.
TransCanada is interested in a 60-40 TIF district with 60 percent of the taxes generated from a wind farm going back to the developer to put into the project. The other 40 percent would be kept by the county for economic development in unorganized territories. ...TIFs have been widely used by municipalities because the new value of the project is "captured" and can be "sheltered" from state valuation. State valuations are used in state formulas for education subsidies, revenue sharing and also for computing county taxes, Ledew said. Because the UT receives no state education subsidy, sheltering TIF value in the UT will not translate to additional education subsidies for unorganized territory residents.