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District OKs tax deal with Clean Line

Morris High would get $1.7 million lump sum, abate taxes until 2042

The Morris Community High School District 101 Board approved a preliminary agreement with Rock Island Clean Line to go into effect if its transmission line project comes through.

Clean Line Energy Partners is planning to install part of its transmission line in Grundy County to deliver wind energy from areas of the Midwest to the East. The company is looking to bring its Rock Island Clean Line to deliver 3,500 megawatts of renewable energy to communities that do not have easy access to wind energy.

In October, it submitted a new application with the Illinois Commerce Commission for both public utility status and for approval to construct the line on its chosen route. Grundy County will be the end of this line, where the energy is converted into usable voltage and run through the old Collins substation to move the power east. The project also includes the construction of a $250 million converter station.

Superintendent Dr. Pat Halloran told the board during its regular meeting Monday that, currently, the property only generates about $186 a year for the high school in taxes. If the project goes forward, the district will receive a one-time payment of $1,755,000.

"We have been working almost a year now on this. This is just a term sheet," he said. "There will be more agreements to take place if (the project) actually happens."

"This is kind of our first step," said Halloran.

If the ICC approves the project, the converter station is planned to be constructed in Grundy County's Economic Development Project Area No. 1. The EDPA was designed to ease the impact of the county’s machinery and equipment tax, which taxes machinery and equipment as real property.

The tax zone allows the county to negotiate taxes for eligible projects, creating a new investment in the project area. The equalized assessed value of the area is frozen for up to 23 years, and tax money made following the freeze goes into a fund used for rebates for machinery and equipment costs.

In addition to using the EDPA, Clean Line and the county are working with Will County to extend an Enterprise Zone to cover the converter station, said Halloran.

With this, the Illinois Enterprise Zone Act enables taxing districts to abate a portion of their taxes for new development within the zone. If the district abates its taxes, in return it gets the $1.7 million payment. Saratoga School will get around $2.4 million, said Halloran.

In the agreement, Morris High would abate 100 percent of the taxes it would be owed until 2032, the end of the life of the zone. After that, it would abate 50 percent of its owed taxes until 2042.

With the $1.7 million, the district would invest it so that it would get about $120,000 a year in revenue.

"We can use those dollars as needed. . . it can be used in any fund," said Halloran.

If the project is expanded in the future, the district and Clean Line would revisit their agreement.

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