FARMINGTON — Proposed amendments to Franklin County’s tax increment financing agreement with TransCanada Maine Wind Development aim to capture more tax money from the company’s Kibby Mountain wind turbine project and broaden the category of projects the county can use the revenue for.

The agreement was established in 2008 when the county approved a TIF district on Kibby Mountain and Kibby Ridge, in the northern part of the county near the Canadian border, where TransCanada developed a 44-turbine wind farm. The TIF district lets the county shelter the wind farm’s property tax revenue from state valuation and use it for several categories of county development projects as outlined in the TIF agreement. The TIF agreement also includes a credit enhancement agreement in which a percentage of tax revenue paid by TransCanada is reimbursed to the company.

When county officials realized in 2014 that they were going to reach the TIF’s $4 million cap of captured revenue before the 20-year agreement was through, they began looking at ways to amend and expand the agreement to better benefit the county. The county is expected to reach the $4 million cap this fall, according to John Cleveland, a community dynamics consultant for Franklin County.

The changes will be the focus of two informational meetings in coming weeks and a formal public hearing this fall. The first meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Franklin County Superior Courthouse in Farmington. The second meeting will be held Sept. 7 at the Carrabassett Valley Library, also at 5:30 p.m.

After the Oct. 4 public hearing, which will be held at the Franklin County Superior Courthouse, county commissioners will take a formal vote on the proposed changes. If commissioners approve the amendments, the changes will go before the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, which has final approval authority over county TIF agreements.

Under the current terms of the TIF agreement, 75 percent of tax revenue from the Kibby wind farm is captured. Of that 75 percent of captured revenue, 40 percent is kept by the county and 60 percent is reimbursed to TransCanada, in accordance with the credit enhancement agreement. In 2016, the TIF generated $422,000 for Franklin County, Cleveland said.

The proposed changes would increase the percentage of tax revenue captured in the TIF from 75 percent to 100 percent, while the terms of the 60-40 credit enhancement agreement would remain the same. Under the proposed changes, the credit enhancement agreement would expire in 2028; however, the TIF agreement would be extended another 10 years, expiring in 2038.

With the proposal to do away with the credit enhancement 10 years before the TIF agreement expires, the county would benefit from receiving the full 100 percent of the captured tax revenue. The proposed changes also would eliminate a revenue cap from the agreement.

“The purpose of all of this is to better benefit the people of Franklin County,” Cleveland said.

Also included in the proposed amendments is the expansion of what types of projects and programs the county can use the money generated from the TIF agreement for. Cleveland said once a TIF is approved, the county is limited to spending the revenue on categories of projects outlined in the agreement’s development program.

While the TIF’s development program is designed to target the county’s unorganized territory, Cleveland said some categories require funding to be spent outside of that region, such as establishing infrastructure for emergency communications.

The proposed new development categories include telecommunication upgrades such as high-speed internet and wireless communication, environmental improvements, emergency services, tourism branding such as website design and digital marketing, recreational trails, as well as costs related to the organization and implementation of related to TIF programs.

The addition of the wording “including but not limited to” is being proposed for addition to almost every existing category to broaden further what the county can spend the TIF money on. The TIF now can fund capital costs for scenic byways, TIF administration costs, a study of county emergency communications, emergency communication equipment, public safety and fire protection, as well as scholarships.

Cleveland said the proposed amendments also include the establishment of a revolving loan fund that will stay in place even after the TIF agreement expires. The fund would be used to dispense grants or loans to businesses that are looking to move to, or expand within, the unorganized territory. As the loans are paid back, the money would be put back into the fund to ensure it can be used for future loans once the TIF expires.

If the proposed amendments are approved at the county and state level, the changes will go into effect in April 2017.

Lauren Abbate — 861-9252

[email protected]

Twitter: @Lauren_M_Abbate


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