UPDATE: Controversy Brews Over Wind Energy Tax Revenue

Sanborn, Iowa — What to do with property tax revenue that comes from MidAmerican Energy wind turbine property in O’Brien County. That’s the question on the minds of some who disagree on the answer.

A committee formed in the summer of 2017 was tasked with the mission of coming up with ideas as to how O’Brien County could be made better with the funds, which will start coming into O’Brien County’s coffers in fiscal year 2019, and will amount to nearly $400,000 that year.

There are some, like auctioneer and real estate expert Rich Vander Werff who say that the money should go into the “general fund” just like any other property tax revenue, and he wrote a letter to the O’Brien County Board Of Supervisors to complain. He tells us his understanding of what happened.

His view is that the revenue should not be earmarked for any particular project.

He says the revenue generated through taxing the wind farm properties is no different than any other property tax on a commercial property such as a factory, and in his view, it should be treated the same way. He says he’s not necessarily opposed to any of the ideas that the committee came up with, but he is opposed to what he calls “the process” that appears to have happened. He says if the money doesn’t go into the general fund, it will feel a little bit like “bait and switch.”

We talked to O’Brien County Supervisor Tom Farnsworth last week and he told us that the decision on what to ultimately do with the money rests with the board of supervisors.


Original story posted at 5:00 pm, 2/23/2018

Primghar, Iowa — There is at least some disagreement over what should be done with the new tax revenue from MidAmerican Energy’s wind turbine property that will start being directed into O’Brien County’s coffers in the 2019 fiscal year.

The revenue from property taxes for the first year is projected to be nearly $460,000.

People such as Rich Vander Werff, who sent a letter to the O’Brien County Board of Supervisors want all the money to go into O’Brien County’s general coffers to assist in the reduction of the county’s mill levy and ultimately result in a reduction of real estate taxes.

The board formed a committee last summer that was to come up with suggestions as to how this money could be used, says O’Brien County Supervisor Tom Farnsworth.

But Farnsworth says the group’s job was only to suggest options, and the committee has completed its work and has now been disbanded.

He tells us who was on the committee.

Some people had heard that most of the money would be funneled to the O’Brien County Conservation Board. Farnsworth says that too was only a suggestion.

Farnsworth says if the entire sum would go to tax relief every year, the county would have to raise taxes on everyone to pay for other items.

Farnsworth says that MidAmerican representatives did promise that the taxes they pay might lower property taxes for others. But he says he does not remember anyone promising at the time that a certain percentage of the revenues would go toward property tax relief.

He says the county board has also used some of the money to help the EMS units in the county. He says $7500 went to each ambulance squad instead of the original amount of $2500.

He says the decision about what to do with the revenue rests with the O’Brien County Board of Supervisors.



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