BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – The roller coaster ride around TransCanada tax refunds neared its conclusion at a special Rockingham Town Selectboard meeting recently.
At issue was millions of dollars in annual taxes: TransCanada pays municipal taxes to the village of Bellows Falls and the town of Rockingham and education taxes to the state of Vermont.
A motion passed that the Rockingham Selectboard, in keeping with the State Supreme Court’s recent decision, issue a refund for excess taxes of $346,264 paid by TransCanada for the years 2012-2014.
The amount included taxes of $224,552 and interest of $121,711, and authorized the municipal manager to forward a check in that amount, along with a letter of explanation, to the company.
It was agreed that the town’s position was that payment would have to be made and therefore interest would no longer accrue on the amount of taxes refunded.
Municipal Manager Shaun O’Keefe noted that he recently received the 2016 audit, which shows an unrestricted fund balance of $951,584, which is ample funds to cover the payment to TransCanada.
The taxpayer, TransCanada Hydro Northeast Inc., had appealed a Superior Court order setting the value of its Bellows Falls hydroelectric facility at $130 million, with $108,495,400 taxable by the Town of Rockingham.
TransCanada argued that the Superior Court erred when it relied on testimony of the Town’s expert witness.
The court decision stated in part: “The court found that the town’s estimate was incredibly low and the court appointed appraisal was found to be ‘a reliable estimate of the fair market value of the facility as of April 1, 2012.’”
At a September 2015 Selectboard meeting, the municipal manager had reported that the TransCanada appeal on the business taxes was ruled in the town’s favor with a value of $108,495,000, and also noted that the Board of Civil Authority was recommending that the value remain the same for the 2015 tax year.
At that meeting, the Selectboard expressed relief at the decision.
Regarding the new court decision, Selectboard member Peter Golec said that information given to the board at the December 2016 meeting on the TransCanada reimbursement did not add up, and he asked Interim Municipal Manager Shaun O’Keefe to check into the matter.
O’Keefe stated that he had spoken with Rockingham School District Superintendent Chris Kibbee and with Attorney Richard Saudek on the reimbursement to TransCanada, and on subsequent reimbursement by the village and the school to the town.
Selectboard Chair Lamont Barnett stated that he felt that the town should not request a reimbursement from the school, noting that the school and the town involved the same taxpayers. Barnett also noted that the expense of getting attorneys involved, as well as the attorney general, could be costly.
No decisions were made by the Selectboard.