County, REC Silicon settle property tax fight

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CBH Columbia Basin Herald Local News

EPHRATA - REC Silicon is entitled to a $16 million refund from Grant County for property taxes the Moses Lake plant paid in 2011, under a formalized settlement agreement announced this week between the two parties.

REC Silicon disputed the county's 2010 assessment value of its property in 2011. According to a previous CBH article, the county assessed the property's value at $1.26 billion for 2010 property taxes.

As a result, REC paid about $16 million in property taxes in 2011, according to the article. At the time, the company requested a refund of its property taxes for any amount above the $507 million it alleges it should have been assessed.

Under the settlement agreement, the company's property value for assessment year 2010 was set at $1.2 billion.

Under the agreement, REC will dismiss its lawsuit requesting the refund in Grant County Superior Court. However, Grant County will pay a refund to REC based on the difference between the assessed value and the negotiated settlement value in an appeal before the state Board of Tax Appeals.

The agreement orders the county to either credit the refund amount to REC Silicon's 2013 property taxes or refund the whole amount directly to the company. While the county has the option to choose how it will pay the refund, it has until April 30 of this year to do so, according to the agreement.

The settlement agreement marks the end of a three-year-long property tax dispute.

The settlement fully resolves tax appeals involving the Moses Lake plant's 2009, 2010 and 2011 property taxes, according to company officials.

Francine Sullivan, the company's corporate council, said the agreement was the result of an extensive negotiation process.

"REC and the county determined it was in the best interests of all to resolve as much of the dispute as possible," said Sullivan in an e-mail Thursday.

When REC Silicon expanded in 2009, the county assessed the new value of the property at $1.26 billion. According to a previous Columbia Basin Herald article, the company's assessment was an estimated $507 million.

While the company paid the $15 million property tax under protest, REC Silicon missed the deadline to appeal it to the county's Board of Equalization, resulting in a lawsuit filed in Grant County Superior Court.

Under the agreement, REC Silicon agreed to dismiss that lawsuit.

The company also challenged the county's 2011 assessment of its property. According to a previous Columbia Basin Herald article, REC Silicon claimed the county's assessment was about $734 million above the $1.01 billion it estimated it was.

The agreement set the property's assessed value at $1.01 billion for assessment year 2011. But according to the agreement, REC Silicon will dismiss any claims for a refund and the county will release any claim to additional payments from REC for that year.

The agreement also addressed certain procedural aspects of the ongoing appeal involving the company's 2013 tax liability, said Sullivan.

Grant County assessed REC Silicon's property value at $1.1 billion in 2012. However, REC Silicon disputed that value this year, claiming the estimated value of the property should have been $450 million, according to the agreement.

The company appealed that value to the state Board of Tax Appeals. Under the agreement, REC Silicon's appeal can be amended if the company's appraisal evidence indicates a different value.

"REC hopes that its 2013 tax appeal will be resolved in a timely and equitable manner," said Sullivan.

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