More than $16 million in accrued interest and in lieu of property tax money that was paid by the Intermountain Power Agency Inc., and which has been held in an investment trust, has been released for disbursement to entities in Millard County, the state school system and Utah's 29 counties.
The money received is from protested assessments for the years 1988, 1989 and 1990.The corporation previously was reimbursed about $10 million. It has also provided impact funding for services that were needed to accommodate the influx of workers during construction of the gigantic Intermountain Power Plant near Delta and the permanent work force following its completion.
Through an agreement with the state of Utah, IPA and entities involved, the Power Agency wasn't assessed in lieu tax money until the power plant went on line to produce and dispense electrical energy.
Millard County Auditor John Hansen explained that instead of paying in lieu of property tax money prior to 1988, the corporation was required to provide impact funding to pay most of the costs for expansion and building of power, water, schools, recreation and other facilities. The bulk of that money was spent in Delta.
The original amount of protested money was about $21 million but with accrued interest, it amounted to $26,820,562, according to Millard County Treasurer Mary Day. Pending settlement of the protest, the $15,656,122 just released for disbursement had been held in a special trust account in an investment pool with the state treasurer's office, she said.
The Power Agency, owner and operator of the Intermountain Power Plant, is assessed by the state in lieu of taxes rather than property tax assessments on the county level. That's because about 11 percent of the corporation's ownership is with several municipalities within the State of Utah. The principal stockholder in the IPA, owning nearly 89 percent, is the Water and Power Department of Los Angeles.
The divided ownership and the fact that the corporation doesn't pay property taxes by Utah law but pays the in lieu of tax assessments, has caused questions concerning the approach to assessment and taxation, Day explained. "Basically, IPA felt that the percentage owned by the Utah municipalities should not be taxed. The Millard County taxing entities' position was that because 100 percent of the power generated from IPP was sold to California, 100 percent of the plant should be taxed (in Utah)."
That issue was the main crux of the complicated tax dispute, although there have been other disagreements of lesser importance. Some concessions were made both by IPA and Millard County.
In the major issue, IPA officials contended they should not have to pay all of the assessed Utah taxes because the power was sold in California and some assets, such as power lines and other distribution facilities, are located in states other than Utah.
Protests didn't end with the 1988-1990 period. The corporation has also protested its 1991 taxes, something that apparently is a common practice among companies and corporations which pay substantial tax amounts. Day said about 90 percent of the 1991 taxes have been released, however.
The Power Agency was assessed $21,341,093 in 1991 after credit for alleviation impact money it spent in the area, the treasurer said. Last year's lieu money was received by the county in November and placed in the state treasurer's fund until most of it was disbursed.
Auditor Hansen said the long-running negotiations between Millard County, IPA and the Utah State Tax Commission have been "tough but congenial." He added, "They have not left any hard feelings."
Millard County commissioners, school officials, County Administrator Robyn Pearson, and present and former county attorneys LeRay Jackson and Warren Peterson have all been heavily involved in the negotiations through the months and years since the issue publicly surfaced. It has drawn a lot of attention because of the unusual circumstances, lengthy negotiations and the large amount of money involved, Day said.
Schools throughout Utah received about two-thirds of the released IPA money amounting to $10,896,693. Of that amount, $6,684,337 was passed on to the state for the Uniform School Fund. The balance will be used in the Millard County School District.
Day said another $1,031,760 was distributed among Utah's 29 counties to help them absorb costs of property assessment and tax collections.
The Central Utah Project also received about $368,055.
Other benefactors in Millard County, and the amounts to the nearest dollar, are the West Millard Recreation District, $518,360; Millard County Fire District, $358,896; mosquito abatement program, $304,481; Millard County government, $302,216; West Millard Hospital District, $138,891; East Millard Hospital District, $7,141; Delta City, $4,690; East Millard Recreation District, $2,737; Delta-Oasis Cemetery fund, $251; and the Town of Lynndyl, $22.