Ohio Governor Ted Strickland
Ohio Governor Ted Strickland
BY ED GEBERT

Times Bulletin News Writer

egebert@timesbulletin.com

Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland signed Senate Bill 232 into law Thursday evening, thus starting the clock for the Van Wert County Commissioners to decide on whether or not to go along with the elimination of tangible personal property tax for wind energy companies.

The commissioners have 30 days from the signing date to pass a resolution affirming the county's cooperation. However, opponents are urging the commissioners to either pass a resolution opposing participation or to do nothing at all. Either option would mean companies like Iberdrola Renewables would have to either negotiate tax abatements with the school districts and township trustees or simply walk away from the project.

Commissioner Gary Adams stated Thursday afternoon that the commissioners had not met to consider the options. "We plan to meet with school boards and township trustees sometime soon to hear what they have to say," reported Adams. "Then we will sit down and decide what we want to do."

The commissioners received an update from Iberdrola Business Developer Dan Litchfield Thursday morning. Litchfield is excited about SB 232 getting Strickland's signature. "I see this legislation as a win-win, as it will provide for significant new revenue for the local governments for years to come, and it gives us the certainty we need to proceed with our project," he said.

The new law eliminates Ohio's tangible personal property tax and real taxes on generation for advanced energy project facilities that begin construction before Jan. 1, 2012, produce energy by 2013, and create Ohio jobs. It allows companies that are looking to build such facilities in Ohio to make an annual payment in lieu of taxes, thereby bringing Ohio's tax rates for these kinds of projects in line with surrounding states.

Litchfield commented, "The bill has robust requirements for Ohio-based job creation, and requires each county to approve the use of the new tax rate, which maxes out at $9,000 per megawatt. For the 121 possible turbines in Van Wert County planned with our Blue Creek Wind Farm, this would mean almost $2.2 million in new revenue per year, which would be equivalent to the top 17 current taxpayers combined."

Opponents have various disagreements with the measure. Hoaglin Township Trustee Milo Schaffner has stated that it takes the power to offer tax abatements out of the hands of school boards and township trustees and into the hands of the commissioners and the state. Others have voiced opposition to the presence of the wind turbines too close to their own homes.

Adams confirmed that the commissioners have already received a petition from the Jackson Township trustees, urging them not to issue a resolution supporting the waiver of property taxes for wind farms. On the other hand, Union Township trustees have been on the other side of the issue. An earlier petition against SB 232 and the House counterpart, HB 464, from the Van Wert County Township Association has signatures from 11 of the 12 townships in Van Wert County. No trustees from Union Township signed that petition.

Wind energy companies like Iberdrola have complained that Ohio's tax structure makes it much more costly to build wind farms in the Buckeye State. Strickland noted, "The elimination of this burdensome tax strengthens Ohio's competitiveness in the growing energy production industries. I appreciate the legislature's commitment to strengthening our advanced energy industry in Ohio. I believe the elimination of these taxes will make it easier for advanced energy companies to do business and create jobs in Ohio."