Four of the five taxing jurisdictions within Schleicher County are facing the prospect of increased taxable values for the first time in many years. Almost all of the increase is due to the Live Oak Wind Farm going on the tax rolls.

The City of Eldorado is not benefiting directly from the added value – the wind farm lies outside the city limits, but the county, school, hospital district and water district are all seeing higher taxable values.

The increase couldn’t come at a better time for Schleicher County since it is among hundreds of taxing jurisdictions in the state whose ability to raise tax revenue was limited this year by the state legislature. Governor Abbott signed a bill into law that lowers the threshold for a tax rollback election. The law doesn’t take effect until next year, but when it does, taxpayers in those jurisdictions will have the option of “rolling back” local tax rates if tax revenues increase by more than three percent year-to-year.

The old eight percent rollback rate remains in effect for this year, giving Schleicher County officials a rare opportunity – the chance to significantly increase property tax revenue, while property tax rates go down.

Complicating matters for the county, along with the hospital and water districts, is the fact that the Live Oak Wind Farm is on an accelerated depreciation schedule. That means the amount the project contributes to the local tax base will go down about eight percent a year for the next ten years.

And...when values go down, tax rates must go up in order to generate the same amount of tax revenue as the year before.

Schleicher County ISD operates under a slightly different funding mechanism. The school negotiated deal with the wind farm that limits its taxable value in return for a $2.1 million lump sum payment, and a significantly lower annual payment over the next ten years.

The Schleicher County Hospital District, whose tax rate has been capped at 75 cents for several years, will benefit from the higher taxable values. The hospital district will realize significantly higher tax revenue from overall lower rates. That’s important since the district was forced to draw down its reserves when falling values pushed its tax rate up against the 75 cent cap.

The hospital district is also working to lower the payment it makes on general obligation bonds issued to finance the construction of the new hospital, clinic and nursing home.

Much like the county, the hospital district’s tax rate will be forced upward when the wind turbines begin depreciating.

The Plateau Underground Water Conservation & Control District levies the smallest tax in the county, but it, too, stands to benefit from the increased property values.

There are other projects on the horizon which offer to increase taxable values within the county. Kinder Morgan’s 42-inch natural gas pipeline will be constructed across the county later this year. There is also a large solar farm proposed for construction just northwest of Eldorado. Schleicher County has already granted a tax abatement on the project and the company is seeking other tax breaks from local officials.