Superintendents excited about windmills

A big topic around Brady these days is the potential development of a windfarm that could have a number of McCulloch County taxing entities reaping the benefits’including Brady Independent School District. “As they are built in our district, they become taxable to those taxing entities in McCulloch County (Brady, Lohn and Rochelle ISD, the county and hospital district),” said BISD Supt. Steve McCarn. “School districts are different in that we can’t offer an abatement to any industry that comes in.” In meeting with the board of directors Monday night, representatives from Renewable Energy Services (RES) presented the district with a proposal that, if approved, would require the district enter into a Chapter 313 Appraised Value Limitation Agreement. “This is a method that the state came up with in 2002 to allow school districts not to ‘run off’ any potential industry due to its inability to provide tax abatements,” said McCarn. “The potential for taxable value for Brady ISD is $150 million. If the school district taxed the wind farm at that rate, their margin of profit might not even be there, so they might not even consider coming. “A limited appraisal would take $10 million of that $150 million and place that on our tax rolls,” McCarn said. “That $10 million would be subject to application of our tax rate just like everyone else’s value is taxes. For the remaining $140 million, we would enter into an agreement that the company would pay a portion of what that tax would have been, had it been on the tax roll (roughly between $500,000 and $600,000 per year). “What’s good about that is it’s a check written to us that is outside of the current funding system offered through the state, and it is allowed by the state. McCarn noted that another highlight is that the entire $150 million of value will be taxed on the interest and sinking fund (those are taxes that the district collects to pay its debt) like what’s paying for the middle school right now and what the district will be paying for the high school. “This has the potential to lower our overall tax rate,” McCarn added. Although the majority of the wind turbines will be represented in Brady’s school district, along the Brady Mountains, a number of units will be located in both Lohn and Rochelle’s school districts, even stretching through the Salt Gap area and into Concho County. Between the two rural McCulloch County school districts, Lohn ISD will see the biggest impact, with an estimated 40 turbines proposed for that area. “We’re looking at $120 million added to the tax roll, and currently, we’re just under $18 million,” said Lohn ISD Supt. Leon Freeman Thursday morning. “That is a sizable increase for us. Potentially, that could be a good benefit to us on the fact that we will have value to tax against, and it won’t hurt our landowners either. Those taxes will be coming from the wind farm property owners.” “What is unique for the school district as opposed to anybody else, regardless of whether Lohn ISD gives these guys the property tax cut or Brady or Rochelle, those windmills could potentially be coming anyway,” Freeman added. “I believe the information presented to the board to be true. These schools would be very shortsided not to take an agreement because it could cost them and us state money if we don’t. I feel it is in the best interest of the school disticts and other taxing entities to to take advantage of this situation.” Across the county, Rochelle ISD has also met with RES representatives and were presented a similar agreement; however, with fewer wind turbines expected. “We’re going to get eight wind turbines, assuming everything goes through,” said Rochelle Supt. Steve Butler. “This is a $25 million project, and it will put $5 million on our tax roll. The remaining $20 million will be exempt for 10 years, and at the end of 10 years what is left after depreciation (roughly $18 million) will go on our tax roll.” Butler anticipates the wind farm to generate between $80-90 thousand per year for RISD. “The great thing about it is it will be outside of the state money, so it’s just like them writing us a check,” added Butler. “Their company will pay Rochelle ISD 40 percent of that $20 million that is off the tax roll. “It’s a win-win for everyone. That’s the way it was described to us when we were first approached. I contacted our attorneys and a law firm with extended expereience with this, and they will represent us through the negoations. We did our research and they are correct’it is a ‘win-win’ for everybody. We’re hoping that the county and hospital district will go ahead and approve their application.” While Brady ISD hasn’t entered into any type of agreement with RES because it’s not familiar with that type of industry, the board did agree to allow McCarn to continue communication efforts with the company. Several steps will be required before a final decision can be made by the board of directors, including the completion of an economic impact study to be performed by an independent firm (with the parent company paying for those expenses). According to McCarn, the firm of Moak & Casey from Austin will complete those studies for the district which has 120 days from Monday night’s meeting for the board to either approve their request or deny it. “I think this is a great opportunity for the district to, number one’help our taxpayers by helping to reduce the tax rate and number two’to generate some revenue to use in the district outside of the funding formula.” In other business, the board of directors heard from lead architect George Austria with Fleuger and Associates, who provided the district with a near- final floor plan of the proposed new Brady High Scool. The detailed plan gave a geographical outline of where the school will sit on the proposed property, just off U.S. Hwy. 190 East, near Brady Middle School. According to McCarn, the front of the school will face the corner of Hwy. 190 and Lynn Gavitt Rd., extending back toward the middle school. McCarn also reported that a special meeting will be held Tuesday, Oct. 9, at 6 p.m. at the BISD administration office when the architect will meet with the board and look for an approval on the floor plan. In explaining how the boards approves each step in the project by phase, McCarn explained the importance of the upcoming meeting because it signals the next phase of constructing the facility. McCarn did report to the Brady Standard-Herald that the district does not look to break ground on the new high school until March or April of next year. Welcoming new board members to the group also topped Monday night’s agenda as Robert Duus was sworn in by McCulloch County Judge Randy Young. Duus replaces Rev. Blake O’Dell who stepped down from the school board position after accepting a position with an Odessa-based congregation. Duus officially assumed his new duties Monday night.

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