O’Brien County Wins through WindMegan Kopp
In 2003, O’Brien County supervisors passed a wind energy conversion property tax ordinance. The county will soon begin reaping the economic benefits of that decision with the recent MidAmerican commissioning of the 70,000 acre Energy Highland Wind Farm.
The Highland Wind Farm property tax revenues will have a significant impact on O’Brien County government operations and local school districts for years to come. About 53 percent will go to the school districts and the rest will go for the county’s government administrative uses or township budgets, etc.
The wind energy conversion ordinance provides for a graduated property tax rate set at zero percent for the first year, increasing by five percent each year until the seventh year. For example, the third year property tax rate is ten percent and peaks at thirty percent at the seventh year. That thirty percent rate will continue for the life of the wind farm, possibly another twenty years.
With the Highland Wind Farm net acquisition cost of $820,195,459, and taxed at ten percent, the calculated third-year property tax payment due is $1,900,065. The fifth-year twenty percent rate shows a property tax payment due of $3,800,130. One last calculation shows the thirty percent seventh-year property tax revenue yields a staggering $5,700,194 payment.
From that $5,700,194, about $2,964,100 will go to the South O’Brien School District and the Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn School District where turbines are located and portioned out according to the number of turbines in each school district.
The significance of the property tax revenues will be reflected in relief of personal property tax dollars for the schools and for county infrastructure needs, basically reducing the necessity of future bonding and increasing economic development opportunities. Currently, the largest property tax paying entity in O’Brien County is Valero Renewable Fuels Company, an ethanol facility in Hartley which now pays a yearly property tax of $645,280. Compared to that revenue, the county will realize up to eight times more tax revenue from the wind farm. Definitely great news for O’Brien County!
Loren Flaugh, O’Brien County Economic Development Corporation