Waynesville City Administrator Bruce Harrill came to the table at the Pulaski County Commission meeting Thursday morning to discuss the solar farm tax controversy and restore some harmony between the two entities.
The Daily Guide was not present at the meeting due to making preparations to move to our new location, but was informed that the meeting had taken place by Waynesville Mayor Luge Hardman afterwards.
The Daily Guide reached out to Harrill and Presiding Commissioner Gene Newkirk to discuss the meeting and to see if the city and the county had come to some kind of understanding over the issue.
Harrill told the Daily Guide that he felt the meeting went well and had restored "some harmony between the city and the commissioners." Newkirk also said he felt the meeting went well and was "productive" and that there was no "hardship between anyone."
"We're to the understanding that it's up to MC Power from here on out. We're going to let it run it's course and see what they do," Newkirk told the Daily Guide Thursday afternoon.
Newkirk said that the issue with the solar farm has "nothing to do with the city of Waynesville" from this point forward and MC Power has until January 1 to pay their tax bill.
According to Newkirk, MC Power has three options at this point, when it comes to paying their tax bill. They can pay the bill in protest and take it to the Tax Commission, they can pay it and forget about it, or they can not pay it and take it to the Tax Commission.
The county still maintains that MC Power owes property tax on the equipment at the solar farm because 137.100 RSMo states that "solar energy systems not held for resale" are exempt from taxes. Pulaski County Assessor Daniel Whittle said he interprets that to mean that MC Power has to pay taxes because they are selling the power produced.
When asked what the city's stance on the issue was, Harrill said he felt there was a hole in the argument about resale. Harrill pointed to Missouri's Net Metering and Easy Connection Act which requires utility entities to buy excess energy produced by green energy sources from customers that are generating it. As an example, individuals with solar panels, wind turbines, or other green sources connected to their utility companies can produce more than they use. The utility companies are required to buy that energy and the individuals with the green energy producing systems also get tax breaks when they purchase or own them.
Harrill said he thinks 137.100 RSMo should be taken back to the Legislature for interpretation and clarification. He said he believes it's too vague and if a strict argument were applied, the private individuals who got tax incentives, but were being paid for their excess energy, wouldn't be eligible for the tax incentives.
"Tax incentives keep our electric rates low," Harrill said.
Harrill said he felt the issue of tax breaks for solar energy were important and make it more competitive with other types of energy.
"Are they worth the tax incentives? I think they are," Harrill said pointing to the finite availability of fossil fuels, "I don't think we want all our eggs in one basket. Coal and natural gas are fossil fuels."
Harrill said the city supports green energy and the Federal and State Energy Plan calls on the city to try to use more green energy. Newkirk said the city needs to have a certain percentage of green energy for grants and other funding. Harrill said green energy is an unfunded mandate where "they tell you to do something but don't give you any money."
Newkirk said the county doesn't have a problem with the solar farm or green energy in general, this issue, for the county, just comes down to an unpaid tax bill.
"We're letting it go to the Tax Commission," Newkirk said.