SWEPCO lowers property tax estimates
Company now says Route 109 will bring county about $275,000
The Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) released updated property tax estimates for the proposed Route 109, 345 kV transmission line that would go through Barry and McDonald counties, and the new estimate is, at best, 33.5 percent of the original $820,000 estimate.
Peter Main, spokesman for SWEPCO said based on the $46.7 million Missouri portion of the project, $15.6 million of which would be in Barry County, the estimated annual property taxed for Barry and McDonald counties would be approximately $650,000 to $700,000, and Barry County would likely see about $250,000 to $275,000 of that total.
"The original number based on the Route 109 was determined using historical rates and assessments of other property in the area," he said. "What we have been able to do is get more accurate information on property tax rates in Barry and McDonald counties."
Originally estimating the tax rate at 7 percent, Main said the company has lowered the Barry County rate used for estimating to 5 percent, and has lowered the McDonald County rate to 4 percent.
Cherry Warren, Barry County presiding commissioner said he knew the original estimate was too high, and he is not surprised by the new numbers.
"We went back and looked at what the railroad pays and we knew [SWEPCO's estimate] was way too high," he said. "I'm sure $200,000 would be a lot more inline than the $800,000, but you lose credibility by saying $800,000 or $900,000 and then come back down to $200,000."
State Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob, said he is also not surprised by the change in the estimation, and thinks it may drop even more.
"It's not surprising to me because when I talked to the collector, I was told total revenue for that tax was $200,000, so for the revenue to quintuple based on SWEPCO's estimate seemed like there was error in the math," he said. "I would also be surprised if $275,000 is accurate, and there could be further reductions."
Fitzpatrick, who filed a bill in the legislature that would strip the Missouri Public Service Commission's jurisdiction in ruling on the proposed route, said he is still against the line being built in Missouri.
"For me, property tax revenues are a secondary concern to the property rights of people who live in the path of the line," he said.
SWEPCO, along with Save The Ozarks, a group aiming to stop the transmission line project entirely, have each filed petitions for rehearing with the Arkansas Public Service Commission. Main said the commission has 30 days to respond to the requests, and the state of Route 109 will depend on the commission's response.
"Depending on the outcome of the request for rehearing, we are prepared to pursue approval in Missouri, and the exact location of the Missouri portion is still pending study and public input," he said.
Main said if the Route 109 decision holds, he hopes the change in property tax estimates will also allow better communication of the project's benefits.
"We certainly hope to be in the position to talk about more accurate numbers, recognizing that estimates on future taxes are just estimates," he said. "We obviously did not get it right the first time, and we are making every effort to get better numbers."
Warren said he has spoken to representatives of Burns and McDonnell, an engineering firm out of Kansas City, and they said letters are about to be mailed out to residents along Route 109 to get an idea of what it would take to acquire the land necessary for the transmission line.
State Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville, did not return multiple messages for comment on this report.