With Loudon City Council approving in June a payment in lieu of taxes agreement with Tate & Lyle, Loudon County Commission will take up the topic this month and possibly end a property tax dispute dating back to 2011.
Commissioners were scheduled to speak to Property Assessor Mike Campbell during the June workshop, but due to his absence, delayed the meeting until later this month.
As part of a potential agreement between the county and Tate & Lyle, the company will pay $2 million per year over a 10-year period. Of the $2 million, the county will receive $1.225 million.
The plant plans to invest in a $66 million, 50-megawatt combined heat and power system that would improve the company’s competitive position and improve air emissions.
Pat Phillips, Loudon County Economic Development Agency executive director, said the county will receive $100,000 per year for the Tate & Lyle natural gas pipeline, which will be in addition to the $1.225 million.
“They’ve been pretty cordial,” Loudon County Mayor Rollen “Buddy” Bradshaw said about ongoing talks with Tate & Lyle. “They’ve gotten heated at times, but we’ve stayed in communications, and I think we’ve reached a happy medium. I think that it’s going to end up being a good deal for the county and the city both.”
Bradshaw said he, Phillips and Loudon City Manager Lynn Mills have been in talks with Tate & Lyle representatives for months, even going to Chicago during the winter to help “get the ball rolling.”
“... Mike (Campbell) is integral in this program as far as figuring out what we will get over 10 years, what we could potentially lose over 10 years, how it relates to the assessment lawsuit that they have filed,” Van Shaver, county commissioner, said. “So I guess I’m going to reserve judgment until I hear the numbers from Mike Campbell.”
While Shaver said he would reserve a say in which way the county should move forward until after the workshop, he acknowledged putting a decision in the hands of a judge could prove unpredictable.
“I do know one thing, it doesn’t matter what you think, anytime a lawsuit goes to court and a judge hears the case it’ll be the judge’s decision, and those things can go any direction,” Shaver said.
During the Loudon City Council June workshop, Mills said the city will receive $775,000 of the $2 million. The vote was passed 3-2 in favor of the agreement during last month’s meeting.
“You can either take this deal or go to court and take your chances. That’s going to be the decision,” Henry Cullen, county commissioner, said. “I don’t know what the tax appeal’s going to end up. Loudon went with it, and you know what, I haven’t spent a whole lot of time on that. We’ve been kind of busy on other stuff.”
County Commissioner Leo Bradshaw said from what he has seen of the agreement, and after talking further about the proposal with Phillips, it seems like a “win-win” for both the county and Tate & Lyle.
“They’re a good corporate citizen (with) big improvements as far as the air quality and lots of good things happened in the last few years, so I think if you go to a court system you have a 50-50 chance of winning,” Leo Bradshaw said. “Some say we’re favored to win and some say, well, it could go either way. It’s according to the judge and the information and how well they know the problem.
“So I’d feel more comfortable with settling, coming up with an agreement that we both can live with and move on because they’re wanting to do some improvements and add some additional operations to their plant as far as increasing employees and growing the operations,” he added. “So I think if we consider that in the long term we will come out better economically than we would by pursuing this in the legal system.”
Moving forward with the agreement would take Tate & Lyle out of the dispute and leave only Kimberly-Clark, Buddy Bradshaw said.
“The ball would be in their court would be the best way to put it,” he said.
Property value assessments this year are $55,759,700 for Tate & Lyle and $46,119,800 for Kimberly-Clark, Campbell said. If commission doesn’t approve the payment in lieu of taxes agreement, and the county and city lose the tax appeal, Campbell said there would be a combined loss in taxes of $727,000, with Kimberly-Clark’s portion at more than $420,000.
Commission will meet at 6 p.m. July 20 at the county office building. The board will also meet at 6 p.m. Aug. 3 at the Loudon County Courthouse Annex for a vote on the tax agreement.
“Tate & Lyle is just such a big positive for our county and is such a good partner with Loudon County that we want to do what we can to make sure and keep them where they are and keep them doing the job that they’re doing and employing the folks that they employ,” Steve Harrelson, commission chairman, said. “So I think it’s important for county commission to look seriously at the PILOT and see what we can work out to let them do the continued growth that they’re doing now and going to do in the near future and help the citizens of Loudon County.”