Impact of nuclear plant deal on taxpayers is unclear

By Warren Bluhm

The payback terms of a settlement between Dominion Energy Kewaunee and the town of Carlton still have to be approved by a judge and the state Department of Revenue, the Kewaunee County administrator cautioned the County Board on Thursday.

The Carlton Town Board on Jan. 14 accepted a settlement with Dominion setting the assessment of the closed Kewaunee Power Station nuclear plant at $15 million. The company, which argued the plant was worth nothing but offered to accept a $10 million assessment, sued after paying a property tax bill based on the town’s $457.4 million assessment.

The agreement entitles Dominion to refunds of nearly $12 million, and although the company waives its right to seek a refund of the town’s portion of those refunds, it is asking the county, Kewaunee School District and other tax entities to reimburse what is now conceded to be an overpayment of its property taces.

County Administrator Scott Feldt told supervisors that the company is asking the judge to approve a 10-year payback. The county’s share is in the neighborhood of $5 million, he said.

“If that were to be put right away on the tax levy in one year, that would be an astronomical tax bill for property owners,” Feldt said. “Dominion was very sensitive to that, and therefore wanted to look at a 10-year type of payback schedule.”

Feldt said he can understand that taxpayers are likely to react with frustration and anger, but to put it in perspective they should remember Dominion paid $12 million over two years that would otherwise have been charged to other property taxpayers.

“A real simple analogy would be that you got a cash advance loan of $1,000 for two years and now you have to pay it back,” Feldt said. “But the company that gave you that cash advance says, ‘I’ll give you 10 years to pay it back interest-free.”

The administrator said he’s reluctant to estimate the impact on individual taxpayers because “there are still many variables.”

The settlement with its 10-year chargeback plan still needs Circuit Judge D. Todd Ehlers’ approval, and the state Department of Revenue must accept the plan as well. The town of Carlton and Dominion are expected to present their agreement to Ehlers during a motions hearing scheduled for 10 a.m. Feb. 7 at the Kewaunee County Courthouse.