‘No decision’ on tax break for United Grain

At a public hearing recently, a decision of a commercial tax break for United Grain Corp. (UGC) was taken under advisement with a decision to be made at a later date.

At the hearing, speaking for UGC was, Ron Plushnick, Treasurer, noted a number of reasons the corporation chose Pondera County as an origination site for the export facilities in Vancouver, Wash.

For one, the county had shuttle train capabilities and UGC was looking for that, plus a lot of spring wheat is produced in the area. Montana was also picked for the new elevator, over North Dakota, because of the tax incentive (abatement) in Montana.

UGC also looked at the local impact of the ability to process and export nine million bushels of wheat purchased from local producers annually, plus the hiring of 4-5 full-time employees and 2-3 seasonal employees.

Twenty percent of the construction costs were sourced locally, the shuttle train price advantage is to be passed through to local producers, the replacement of the Midway West Bridge at their expense of $71,250, and revenue generated through local property taxes and the potential of off loading sand for fracking should the oilfield industry increase were also factors in the construction of the elevator here.

Kory Hofland from the Montana Department of Revenue presented figures showing the most recent valuation estimate of $14,500,000 for the UGC facility.

Based on the valuation and tax levies, the Department calculated the taxes on the United Grain facility as $1,060,926 without the tax incentive and $777,129 with the incentive.

The estimates by the Department of  Revenue assumes the mill levy remains constant at 362.13 mills. Also that there are no changes in the real or personal property tax rates over the 10-year period, no changes additions or deletions to the facility over the 10-year period, the assumption of a three percent inflation factor and the assets are depreciated on a 16-year economic life.

Commissioner Janice Hoppes presented a worksheet of the potential impacts on the various tax levying jurisdictions, showing the Conrad School District, the county general funds, the road and bridge funds, and public safety funds as  having the highest percentage of being  impacted.

The worksheet was put together prior to the hearing and was based on valuation and tax impacts on figures provided by the Department of Revenue that have since been updated and did not correspond to the valuations presented at the hearing.

They will need to be updated. Public comment consisted of a few general questions that were not specific to this application, but rather to the process, as well as a question as to the completion of construction. Plushnick said the target date to complete testing of the facility is the end of this month and the middle of April is the date to start taking in grain.

In other business, at the regular meeting on Wednesday, the  commissioners moved that Keri DeGroat, Eugene Underdahl and Troy Shirley be elected to the board of directors of the newly formed Conrad County Water District by acclamation.

The motion was made by Commissioner Joe Christiaens and seconded by Hoppes and passed on a 2/0 vote.

The new board’s term will go to Dec. 31, 2013. A regular election will take place in November 2013.

The commissioners have their regular business meeting every Wednesday at 10 a.m. in the commissioner’s office.

The public is always welcome and encouraged to attend.