Tax Breaks Promised to Freedom Residents May Be Over

At the Board of Selectmen meeting last Monday night, a motion was put forth by Selectman Kenny Overlock and seconded by Selectman Steve Bennett, to propose an offer to Beaver Ridge Wind in regards to their 30% abatement request put forth earlier in the year. Selectman Ron Price abstained from voting, but did state that he was in agreement with the other two selectmen’s decision.

The proposed offer: 7.5% per year for 2015 thru 2018 (total of 30% for those 4 years). 3% per year beginning 2015 down to a final valuation 40% of what it is currently is now.

This offer follows a similar proposal which contained a third part: donations of $6000 per turbine per year beginning this year. BRW’s reply was yes to 4% per year down to 30% of current valuation, and no on donations of $6,000 per turbine per year beginning this year.

One issue that keeps being brought up by BRW is the agreement that the state has with all the developers in the unorganized territories. Their way of saying that this method established is how all projects should be treated. The thing is, the state made confidential agreements with each developer as to how each valuation was reached and the Beaver Ridge Wind project is not a state approved project. For this reason, Freedom has the right to tax as we see fit as long as it’s reasonable.

Another thing to keep in mind, is what the outcome could be 14 years down the road. Could Freedom be stuck with paying taxes on the turbines (around $4 million in valuation) for up to five years after they are gone with $0 tax revenue from BRW? (State valuations tend to lag behind local assessments by 2-3 years) Could we utilize the so-called “sudden and severe loss” clause? Will it still be in effect then?

This option was mentioned by Mike Rogers, from the Maine Revenue Property Tax Division, as an option that Freedom could pursue, if needed. In essence this bill provides that, for fiscal year 2015-16 and beyond, in the event a municipality is approved for an adjustment to its state property valuation due to a sudden and severe disruption in its municipal valuation, that adjusted state valuation is the property fiscal capacity for purposes of determining municipal contributions under the school funding formula.

According to the selectmen, Beaver Ridge Wind told them that their deadline to file an abatement request with State Board of Property Tax review is Monday, June 29, 2015. At this point the question is: Do we not move another inch and let this matter go to the state level and take our chances?

It appears folks that the day of reckoning has arrived for Freedom. The state assessments have finally caught up with us and the tax breaks promised to Freedom residents may be at an end.