By Heather J. Carlson
School districts stand to lose thousands of dollars a year under a new law that takes away taxes generated by wind farms.
A measure passed the Legislature last session means school districts will no longer benefit from taxes generated by local windmills after June 30, 2009. It’s a change that has some southeastern Minnesota school officials angry.
"We thought, well that’s going to be great. We’ll get this new form of revenue and get to keep it here, and they all of a sudden they yank the plug," said Grand Meadow School Board member Marlin Fay.
While Grand Meadow received $3,726 this year from wind farm taxes, the amount was expected to go up to $25,000 next year, according to Superintendent Joe Brown.
With more wind turbines being installed, Brown estimates his district would have received $50,000 in 2009. He said the district had been banking on that money to fund a new teacher since the district boosted its science and math graduation requirements.
"We were really counting on this extra money," said Brown, who has launched a campaign to get the policy rescinded.
The Minnesota Department of Education supports the new law. In a letter addressed to Fay, Education Commissioner Alice Seagren writes that the change is about treating schools equally. Allowing schools to have extra money because they happen to have a wind farm in their district "goes against the concept of uniform, equitable funding of public schools," she wrote. Seagren also notes that there is a similar policy when it comes to power-line taxes and liquor-license fees.
But Republican Rep. Randy Demmer of Hayfield said he has a tough time accepting that argument. Unlike other businesses, wind farms are not subject to property tax. Demmer said it is only fair that rural schools benefit from wind farms like urban schools benefit from new businesses.
"Those revenues should be going to the counties and the schools where they are located," Demmer said.
Page A6: Superintendent works to restore funds
For more information about Minnesota wind farms, visit www.postbulletin.com/weblinks.