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Taxpayers subsidize the building of wind turbines, we subsidize the running of the turbines, we then pay per KW on our utility bills, and now they want us to subsidize their local property taxes too. Under SF2366 / HSB704 wind farms would no longer have to pay property taxes, but a far lower per kilowatt tax rate – unless of course supervisors agree to pass an ordinance that gives them a 60% discount off their assessed property value (Iowa Code 427B.26).

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We had such a discount in place in Madison County but became the first to repeal ours in December of 2020 so future turbines would pay the same rate as all our other businesses. For example, our Macksburg turbines are assessed at around $3.6 million each, and with their current assessed value 60% discount, they only pay about $17k per turbine annually in taxes. But a similarly assessed commercial business pays around $81k annually. How is this fair?

There are other issues with the proposed new tax option for wind as well:

  • NOT REVENUE NEUTRAL: The utility replacement tax is based on the kilowatts produced from an intermittent energy generating facility (wind) so revenues probably will fluctuate and be less than what is generated now under property taxes, which causes instability for budgets. I asked the Iowa Dept of Revenue if a multi-year comparative analysis was available showing the two tax options using an existing wind farm and was told no.
  • REDUCES DEBT CAPACITY: The utility replacement tax is not a property tax so it cannot be TIF’d or levied by local governments, including school districts
  • BYPASSES LOCAL CONTROL: Energy companies would no longer need to request the passage of the special 60% assessment discount ordinance, with its associated public notice and local control. This is especially problematic for those counties with no zoning or limited zoning.
  • ELIMINATES PUBLIC NOTICE OF FUTURE WIND FARMS TO THOSE COUNTIES WITHOUT ZONING OR LIMITED ZONING: Given the probable lower cost benefits of this proposed new tax option to wind energy companies, there is no motivation for utilities to seek the 60% assessed value discount ordinance – with its associated public notice requirement – any longer.  As such, it is feasible that many county governments and local residents would have no idea that 500 ft. (40 story high) turbines were being built 1,500 ft. (or less) from their homes until construction started.

If this bill passes, county supervisors will only have the choice between the intermittent crumbs of a per kilowatt tax, or the crust of the 60% discounted property tax, while the rest of our residents and businesses are still expected to pay their full property sandwich. This isn’t a choice at all – its extortion.

Right now, local county governments are the only ones that can regulate wind energy projects to protect our rural residents, not the IUB, yet are continually being hamstrung by both the legislature and the courts (via lawsuits) when we try to do so. If they don’t want to have wind energy regulated as a normal utility by the IUB, then wind energy should not get the tax benefits of one. You cannot have your cake and eat it too.

The only ones that profit from this change are the energy companies. I certainly haven’t seen my electricity bills go down from the billions of our money spent on these already, have you? Taxpayers have been losing their lunch on wind energy for decades with absolutely nothing to show for it. It’s time to stop the Green New Deal gravy train. We want to get off.

Heather Stancil

Madison County

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