Press "Enter" to skip to content

PGP seeks to slash tax bill

By Sherri Ellington With Piedmont Green Power, also known as Rollcast, fighting to take some $100 million of its assessed values off the Lamar County tax digest, the county and board of education budgets ‘“ and their millage rates ‘“ are up in the air. ’I have concerns with the tax digest,’ said chief appraiser Jeannie Haddock at the county’s first budget workshop July 9. ‘We’re still under appeal with PGP and the total it wants to take off equals two mills.’ Preliminary numbers, based on PGP’s assessed value of $189 million minus a drop in residential property values and vehicle ad valorem taxes, would result in a county millage adjustment from 10.455 to 10.48 to keep the same revenue in 2014 as in 2013 and avoid a series of public hearings on the millage change. With the power company’s values, based on Jan. 1, in question, Haddock received an extension until Sept. 1 from the state Department of Revenue for the tax digest submission deadline. The deadline was approved because the amount is about a third of the digest. ’That’s a big difference in the budget for us and the school board,’ said Haddock. ‘If it goes to court there could be court costs too. You’re going to end up short of money and the taxpayers will be hammered.’ Haddock said the company will get a $22 million exemption for pollution control devices that were in place Jan. 1, 2013, which would put the millage at 1.49 mills, or .7% of the total digest. However, PGP is arguing for an exemption for a $47 million government grant and other items. ’The grant is taxable,’ said Haddock. ‘There are also some items that might be exempt for the IRS but not for us and vice versa. We have to appraise it as equipment, not a business. It’s confusing. I want the value more in line.’ PGP is a privately owned power company, not a public one subject to the Public Service Commission, so the state did not do a utility assessment. An independent company is to evaluate the values but PGP is refusing to disclose its power sales agreement with Georgia Power ‘“ which is public record because it is subject to PSC rules. ’Ask the PSC for it,’ said commissioner Charles Glass July 9. ‘That’s cheaper than a subpoena.’ At the July 11 tax assessor’s meeting, Haddock said Rollcast representatives cancelled a meeting with her this week but did agree to send more detailed information, especially on taxable intangibles. She estimated a possible loss to the county of $500,000 in revenue. ’For the school system it would be even more,’ she said. In addition to the PGP problem, motor vehicle tax revenues are also up in the air with a confusing new state law that requires all sales tax up front ‘“ and a state valuation system that is higher than fair market value. With changes expected in the law, there could be large variables in this case too. In addition, there are 258 other real and personal property appeals, down from 500 in 2012, which will probably result in the loss of some value ‘“ but not the hundreds of thousands of dollars the PGP appeal could cause. ’Anything we do right now is a guesstimate,’ said county manager Bob Zellner, noting that Local Option Sales Taxes also have declined about 28%. ’Before we start raising the millage we need to look at the difference between best case and worst case scenarios,’ said commissioner Van Baker, who was taking part in the workshop via speakerphone. In the preliminary budget, Lamar County was $260,000 short at the full $189 million value of PGP. Because of the 2014 elections, the election board budget will go up 32%. The school board also could face a two-mill hike for the upcoming year ‘“ or the options of draining the fund balance or laying off workers. Superintendent Dr. Bill Truby broke the news of the discrepancy to the board of education July 9. ’There are some major changes we need to address,’ Dr. Truby said. ’We’ve known for some time about the declining property values and Piedmont Green Power. We’re approaching it very cautiously. The numbers seem to be in flux and we’re working from a worse budget than we thought.’ The board took a planned approval of budget and millage rate advertising off the agenda and replaced it with a spending resolution for August ‘“ one had already been made for July ‘“ in response to the budget and tax digest delay. ’We’re not prepared to submit a budget or set the millage rate at this time with so much in limbo,’ Dr. Truby said. ‘We don’t know where we’re at. We don’t have enough information to work from.’ Chairman Susan Byars noted the ‘two mills floating around out there we’d have to find’ is unacceptable. ‘I’d like to have it as exact as we can get.’ The board plans to vote to advertise a budget and millage rate at a called Aug. 6 meeting.

Be First to Comment

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Website by - Copyright 2021