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Taxing bodies will lose an estimated $2.6M due to new nuke assessment

Board of Review lowered assessment from $546M to $503M

Exelon's Byron Station is located on German Church Road, between Oregon and Byron.
Exelon's Byron Station is located on German Church Road, between Oregon and Byron.

Preliminary numbers indicate that 11 local taxing bodies will lose a total of $2.6 million in real estate tax revenues this year due to the decrease in the assessment of the Byron Generating Station.

The Ogle County Board of Review lowered the plant’s assessment from $546 million to $503 million, a seven percent decrease, on Jan. 17 after they heard Exelon Generation’s assessment appeal and arguments against it from attorneys for the Byron School District.

Exelon asked for the assessment to be set at $188 million, while the school district requested a value of $625 million.

Ogle County Treasurer Linda Beck said Tuesday that she cannot yet make exact calculations on how much less the taxing bodies will receive.

She does not yet have the tax rates from each taxing affected body or the township equalization factors (multipliers) from the Illinois Department of Revenue.

Last year, Exelon paid $36.8 million in real estate taxes for the Byron plant while this year the amount looks to be $35.2 million based on the seven percent decrease in the assessment.

The Byron School District will feel the largest loss — an estimated $1.5 million.

Ogle County Board Chairman Kim Gouker, of Byron, said the county will feel the reduction in several areas, at least $100,000 in the $14 million General Fund, another $100,000 to $150,000 in the Road & Bridge Fund, as well as lesser amounts in other funds.

“Although the impact is not as great as the Byron School District’s, it will ripple across our budget,” he said.

The Highway Department will have to scale down or postpone some of its planned projects as a result, he said.

Oregon Park District Executive Director Erin Folk said decisions have already been made to deal with the estimated $178,000 reduction in district tax revenues.

“We have a plan in place,” she said.

The Operating Fund will be scaled back to absorb a $78,000 loss, while the $100,000 reduction in the Bond Fund will be made up by an increase in the rate for the fund, which means an increase for other taxpayers.

Oregon School Superintendent Tom Mahoney said he anticipates a $60,000 loss of revenue from its $14 million budget in a district already facing financial challenges.

He said the school board will discuss the issues and decide whether to make more cuts or dip into its dwindling reserves.

The board has already made staff cuts, he said.

Since real estate tax revenues are factored into how much a school district receives in state aid, Mahoney said a possible increase in state funding could make up for the decrease.

“That would make it neutral, which is never good, but at least it wouldn’t be a loss,” he said.

Exelon’s taxes also go to Rockvale Township, Byron Fire District, Rock Valley College, Byron Public Library District, Byron Museum District, Byron Forest Preserve District, and Kishwaukee Community College.

Gouker said the BOR did not give sufficient reasons for its decision, which he said may result in higher property tax for other taxpayers.

“The nuclear plant is by far the most important part of not only our tax base, but also our industrial base,” he said. “When a significant piece of real estate is arbitrarily reduced in value it shifts the tax burden to other taxpayers, primarily individuals and small businesses. That’s the unfortunate part.”

The current of assessment of Exelon’s Braidwood Generating Station, a “twin” of the Byron plant, apparently played a role in the BOR’s decision.

BOR Chairman Joe Yockey, of Stillman Valley, said that Braidwood Generating Station is assessed at $460 million for 2018, which is scheduled to increase to $465 million in 2019 and $470 million in 2020.

The Braidwood plant in Will County was built nearly identically to Byron Station and came online shortly after it.

Gouker said that while the two plants are similar in design, the local situations are different because taxing bodies in Will and Grundy Counties are less dependent on the nuclear plant for tax dollars than Ogle County.

“Grundy County has a much larger industrial tax base than we have,” he said.

The $546 million assessment of the Byron plant was set last fall by Supervisor of Assessments Jim Harrison, who retired Dec. 31.

That assessment had been set annually since 2016.