Some Klickitat County residents face tax increases in future due to wind farm evaluations

wind turbine 150Changes in the way wind farms are assessed in Washington state can mean higher tax bills for Klickitat County residents in the future. The Yakima Herald Republic carried a long story this weekend about possible effects in Bickleton.

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Local officials say projections show voters may see their tax rate nearly double to pay off a new school they approved just four years ago. The district has just 96 students, but in 2009 local voters approved an  $8.9 million bond for a new school and the district’s first-ever maintenance and operation levy, used to supplement general expenses such as books, programs and staff. The measure passed with nearly 80 percent of the vote.

But that was before California, the region’s largest electricity market, effectively closed its borders to new wind power electricity generated outside the state, before Congress and state legislatures cut back on wind power tax incentives and before Washington state changed taxation on wind turbines from a flat rate per year to a flexible and less predictable depreciation schedule that shrinks valuations 6 to 7 percent each year.

Bickleton School District officials expect levy rates to shoot up to nearly $4 per $1,000 by the time they pay off the 10-year construction bond in 2019. They can’t change much about that. However, they have decided to not ask voters to renew a maintenance and operation levy in 2016, 2017 and 2018, the years when the rates will reach their highest. The move will cost the budget about $165,000 per year and save residents about 25 cents per $1,000 on their levy rates, Palmer said.To make up for it, they plan to cut District Superintendent Ric Palmer and Judy Naught, the longtime business manager, to half-time employees and not replace a few other employees when they retire.

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