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Wind farms provide income boost for MHS

Posted: Tuesday, Nov 27th, 2012

MENDOTA - Thanks to a 30 percent increase in Lee County's Equalized Assessed Value (EAV), taxes for property owners in Mendota High School District 280 are expected to go down slightly next year. Speaking at last week's board of education meeting, MHS Superintendent Jeff Prusator explained, "It's a one-year deal where we have a huge EAV increase in Lee County due to the wind farms. The good news is the tax rate will go down next year."

As for the other two taxing counties in District 280, Bureau County's EAV increased by $500,000 but Prusator said LaSalle County had not yet provided information. "The Bureau County increase is strictly because of farmland," he noted. "I don't have a solid number from LaSalle County yet, but I think it will increase by 1.5-1.6 percent - almost flat."

Although the current EAV projections are only "best guess" estimates provided by each county's assessor, these are the numbers school districts must work with in determining the levy. Prusator stressed the importance of capturing as much revenue as possible from the wind farms now that they are on the tax rolls. "By doing that, it means everybody else in the district will pay less," he said.

Prusator said that realistically, he expects the EAV to increase by 6.3 percent to $196,357,670. "We're going to ask for 5.8 percent more money than we received last year . . . or $292,382," he said. "That would be a tax rate of about $2.72. The wind farms are actually contributing $233,791 of that $292,382. That's important to understand."

Because the district is requesting more than 5 percent over the amount received last year, Prusator said a Truth in Taxation hearing will be held next month as required by law. However, he emphasized that the tax rate is dropping from $2.73 last year to $2.72 this year. That means people whose home values have remained about the same as last year, will see their property taxes go down. For example, the amount of tax paid on a $70,000 house would drop by $9.17.

"Even though we're asking for more money, if the value on your house remains the same, you should pay less in taxes," he said. "I don't want anybody shocked that we're having this Truth in Taxation hearing."

Prusator noted that wind farms use the increase in EAV as a selling point to county boards. "The developers actually promote this; it's a way for communities to accept wind farms," he said.

Another upside for the district is that increased money from property taxes means less reliance on the state, which continues on shaky financial footing. Prusator said he understands that people are concerned about any perceived tax increases. "We all get nervous when we hear we're going to ask for 6 percent more, but we need to remember that's being generated from the wind farms," he said.

For the complete article see the 11-28-2012 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 11-28-2012 paper.

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