Local students feeling effects after power company withholds tax payment
UPDATE Dec. 7: Rockland Energy released the following statement on Monday:
"Grand Tower Energy Center wants to be a good corporate citizen by paying fair and accurate taxes that are based on the Illinois Property Tax Code’s statutes of fair cash value on the open market. Unfortunately, the Jackson County property tax assessment is not based on this principle.
We have been working with the Jackson County assessor’s office for nearly two years to resolve this issue. Despite our repeated attempts to negotiate in good faith – including initiating mediation efforts with a well-respected retired Illinois judge of many years and making the assessor’s office aware of the plant’s difficult financial situation – our efforts have been rebuffed.
We recently submitted our appeal for the second year to the Jackson County Board of Review.
Grand Tower Energy Center is not in a financial position to make tax payments based on the current assessment.
Grand Tower Energy Center remains hopeful that a fair and accurate assessment can be reached. We are committed to make every effort to resolve this issue so we can provide reliable power to Southern Illinois as well as jobs and other economic benefits to our local community.
Grand Tower Energy Center was purchased in January 2014 as part of a package of three Illinois power plants.
The Illinois Property Tax Code statutes state that real property must be assessed on the basis of its fair cash value on the open market. Illinois courts have ruled that fair cash value is best established by evidence of a recent sale.
Jackson County’s assessment values Grand Tower Energy Center well in excess of the amount paid for all three plants together, and fails to meet the standards of the Illinois Property Tax Code.
Grand Tower Energy Center cannot afford to pay the excessive taxes Jackson County has imposed while continuing to invest money to repair the plant to bring it into reliable operating condition.
From the start, Grand Tower Energy Center has attempted to work with Jackson County and other local officials to find a win/win resolution, including initiating mediation with a pre-eminent retired Illinois judge.
Grand Tower Energy Center also proposes to pay Jackson County what would be the fair and accurate tax amount, plus a bonus based on the performance of the plant once it is in reliable working condition."
ORIGINAL Dec. 4: A local power company isn’t paying its taxes, and that could be hurting your child’s education.
In February, Local 6 first reported that Rockland Capital petitioned to get its $2.4 million tax bill on the Grand Tower Energy Center reduced.
That request was denied in May, and Rockland chose to appeal.
As it waits on a final ruling, Rockland hasn’t made a single payment on this year’s tax bill.
Shawnee Superintendent Shelly Clover-Hill says it’s a scenario she couldn’t have imagined after the Jackson County Board of Review declined to reduce Rockland Capital’s tax bill.
"This wasn’t even on the radar that they would not pay their taxes," said Clover-Hill. "(I) didn’t even know that was possible."
Last year, Shawnee received about $1.4 million in taxes from Rockland Capital. However, in 2015 they have yet to receive a single dime. Now, administrators are scrambling to find places to make cuts, without any money coming in.
"When you lose $1.4 million for right now, you have zero time to plan," said Clover-Hill. "We’re not exactly eliminating programs. We’re just not expanding on programs that we currently have, and the students are ultimately the ones that lose."
While the school can afford to make it through the year, field trips have been canceled and the ability to bring in substitutes has been limited.
That has Clover-Hill seeking a resolution.
"We don’t want to keep fighting with the power plant," said Clover-Hill. "We want to come to some compromise that we can all live with."
Since mediation talks broke down, Rockland has until Jan.16 to pay their bill, with a 4.5 percent late fee, or be subject to tax sale.
We emailed and called Rockland Capital multiple times today. So far, they have not responded to our attempts to reach them for comment on this story.