Wind energy legislation passes on House floor

Published 10:26 am Friday, May 15, 2009

Legislation authored by State Rep. Jeanne Poppe (DFL-District 27B) that modifies the formula for distribution of revenues from wind energy production was passed on the House floor Tuesday night.

The provision was included in HF 1298, an omnibus tax bill that provides specific tax provisions for cities, counties and townships in Minnesota.

The Austin legislator’s provision in the bill modifies the formula for distribution of wind energy revenues for 2010 and following years.

Email newsletter signup

With passage of the bill, 80 percent of the revenues will be distributed to counties and 20 percent goes to cities or townships, where wind energy project originate.

Under current law, 80 percent goes to the county, 14 percent to cities or townships and 6 percent to school districts.

“This legislation returns the 6 percent of the revenues that are currently going into the state’s general fund to cities and townships, keeping the tax local, where it is generated,” Poppe said. “This additional revenue for our communities will be very helpful in covering the costs of local government.”

Joseph Brown, superintendent of Grand Meadow public schools, said, “I support the compromise.”

According to Brown, under the legislation’s provisions, the school district’s 6 percent share will be returned for the current school year under the original 80, 14, 6 percent formula before the 80, 20 percent split between counties and cities and townships in 2010. Wind energy tax revenues were coveted by rural school districts, such as Grand Meadow, when other funding sources declined.

The 6 percent share of the revenues generated within the Grand Meadow district were a legitimate “windfall.”

The only other school districts to share in the profits were Southland and LeRoy-Ostrander.

Most of the wind energy projects in the county are located in the eastern two-thirds of the county, where the three school districts are located.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty took back the school districts’ 6 percent share with a legislative maneuver at the end of the 2007 session.

If Poppe’s legislation survives and is passed into law, the Grand Meadow district could see an extra $30,000 in wind energy tax revenues this year, and Southland would receive $25,000.

When the distribution formula changes to an 80 percent for the county and 20 percent for cities and townships formula in 2010, there should be at least $40,000 to $60,000 to be shared.

Because none of the wind turbines are located within the city limits of any town, that means three townships — Dexter, Grand Meadow and Clayton — will share the wind energy tax revenues.

Brown’s theory is, “I would prefer that school districts got the wind energy tax revenues, but this is a good compromise, because if the townships use the money to repair and upgrade their roads, this will reduce the wear and tear on school buses for nine months out of the year.”

The savings in bus maintenance or vehicle replacement costs by the township road improvements will, in turn, help the school districts save money, according to Brown.

The superintendent’s wife, state Rep. Robin Brown (DFL-District 27A) also introduced legislation to change the distribution formula for win energy tax revenues, but her legislation didn’t get out of committee.

Grand Meadow School District

The Grand Meadow School District is a peculiar situation.

The K-12 concrete monolithic, five-dome school building gives students and teacher a state-of-the-art facility with unmatched energy efficiencies anywhere in the Upper Midwest.

On May 11, Brown wrote Pawlenty in the midst of the state budget deficit battles in St. Paul to visit the district.

“I did that because I think out school district has many of the same things the governor says are necessary for a quality education today,” Brown said.

In his letter, the superintendent noted, “We are the only dome school district in Minnesota.

“We are the most fuel-efficient school district in Minnesota.

“We are one of only six Minnesota high schools that require four years of math and four years of science for our graduating class of 2010.

“We became the ninth Q-Comp school in 2006.

“We provide every student in grades 8-12 with a laptop computer purchased from the Minnesota Computers for Schools Program.

“We are one of the few small school districts that are growing in enrollment.

“17.2 percent of our students open enroll into our district.”

And, the superintendent might add, the on again – off again source of wind energy tax revenues spinning outside the school building.