North Country
6:00 am
Mon June 30, 2014

Supreme Court: Criticism For Coos Officials But Tiny Millsfield Still Unsure About Huge Tax Hike

Millsfield resident Mark Sandoe is among those worried about what they see as a catastrophic increase in taxes over the value of the Granite Reliable wind farm, something in which the community had no say. Photo by Chris Jensen
Millsfield resident Mark Sandoe is among those worried about what they see as a catastrophic increase in taxes over the value of the Granite Reliable wind farm, something in which the community had no say. Photo by Chris Jensen

  Despite a Supreme Court ruling in their case about a dozen households in tiny Millsfield in the North Country still don’t know whether they’ll be on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes. But they do know that the state’s highest court concluded Coos County Commissioners were wrong to use a single remark to settle on the value of the Granite Reliable wind farm, which was the subject of the court case...

In 2008 the three Coos County commissioners – Tom Brady, Bing Judd and Paul Grenier – picked $113 million as the value of the wind farm and thus the basis for a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes.

But in 2012 – when the wind farm began operating - the state’s Department of Revenue Administration concluded the wind farm was really worth about double that.

And, since most of the wind farm is in tiny Millsfield - which straddles Route 26 near the Dixville Notch - it suddenly owed about $800,000 to the state.

The County Commissioners claimed that hike wasn’t fair because a D.R.A. employee provided the $113 million figure.

That started the dispute.

The county lost before the Board of Land and Tax Appeals.  So, it appealed to the Supreme Court.

Earlier this month the  court ruled it was wrong for the commissioners to use the $113 million figure because the D.R.A. official only mentioned it “briefly and informally” at an educational meeting to discuss how a Pilot agreement works.

That conclusion supports critics - including current Commissioner Rick Samson - who say the commissioners should have done more research before signing the controversial agreement.

However, the court decision did include a victory for Coos County.

The court ruled state officials were wrong when they refused to tell the county how they came up with the new $228 million value. That information must now be available.

The case now goes back to the state’s Board of Land and Tax Appeals, leaving Millsfield in a kind of tax limbo.

But Gov. Hassan could solve Millsfield’s problem if she signs House Bill 1590. It would lock the value of the wind farm at the original amount.

A spokesman for the governor said she has not made a decision.

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