Auglaize, Allen County commissioners consider consulting firm for Birch Solar tax questions

WAPAKONETA — The Auglaize and Allen County commissioners on Tuesday hosted a special meeting with school district representatives to discuss hiring a firm that could calculate the fiscal impact should Lightsource bp apply for preferential tax treatment, a special tax abatement for alternative energy projects like the proposed Birch Solar project, that could affect future tax revenue collected by the counties, townships and school districts.

Unlike a traditional tax abatement, the townships and school districts would not have a formal say in the approval process. Only the county commissioners in Auglaize and Allen counties would be able to grant preferential tax treatment should Lightsource bp ask for it.

The process would also give Lightsource bp the opportunity to offer a payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT for short, which is a set rate the company would pay for decades in lieu of taxes.

The commissioners now want to determine whether accepting a potential PILOT offer from Lightsource bp, which has not been submitted at this time, would be more beneficial for the affected taxing entities than rejecting the company’s request for preferential tax treatment.

But that’s a complicated process, given the uncertainty regarding future school levies and other unknowns, and an official offer from Lightsource bp could be months away.

“Getting that information along with the local impact is going to better help all those involved understand what the two scenarios mean,” Allen County Commissioner Cory Noonan said.

Lightsource bp submitted its formal application for the 1,410-acre, 300-megawatt project to the Ohio Power Siting Board last week, the first step to get the project itself approved.

The Auglaize and Allen County commissioners did not take a vote Tuesday on hiring a firm to run an assessment.

By Mackenzi Klemann