Matson scolds official over tax criticism

TONOPAH — Nye County Assessor Shirley Matson blasted commissioner Dan Schinhofen Tuesday over his criticism of renewable energy tax abatements granted to SolarReserve, dba Tonopah Solar Energy LLC, for the Crescent Dunes solar plant under construction 13 miles northwest of here.

It’s the only concentrated solar power plant under construction in Nye County, which will generate 110 megawatts of power to be transmitted through the NV Energy grid when it’s expected to be completed in mid 2014.

The Nevada Legislature granted a 55 percent renewable energy tax credit on property taxes. The SolarReserve tax abatements are for 20 years, from Aug. 24, 2011 to Aug. 24, 2013.

The assessor’s office report that was provided to commissioners asked the county treasurer to make adjustments to the taxes based on the abatements. The assessment on a 121.6-acre parcel was reduced from $149,174 to $67,128 with the 55 percent abatement; taxes were cut from $4,587.49 to $2,083.61. For a 79.097-acre parcel, the assessment was reduced from $97,214 to $43,746, cutting the taxes from $3,001.78 to $1,370.04. An 80.92-acre parcel that would normally be assessed at $98,702 was assessed at $44,416, the taxes were reduced from $3,047.19 to $1,390.49. A parcel leased from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which would ordinarily be assessed at $37.7 million was reduced to $17 million, cutting taxes from $1.15 million to $518,969.

Matson said the previous Board of County Commissioners approved a development agreement with SolarReserve that set forth the solar plant construction and the abatements. She said former Commissioner Joni Eastley testified she knew SolarReserve was going to apply for the abatement and knew how the abatements worked. Matson was upset Schinhofen had several people contact her office and contacted the Nevada Department of Taxation.

“Our department was never asked for any comments or what we thought about it at the time,” she said of the abatements. “Our department is not responsible for any of the terms the county agreed to or the state. Our job is to implement the procedures, period.”

“You’ve made fictitious and condescending comments that anyone can make up those calculations, which is not only non-productive, it’s insulting,” the county’s assessor said. “So what is it you don’t understand?”

“Accusing us of things is not making anybody feel good. So let’s get this squared away today,” she added.

Schinhofen said he only wanted Matson to explain more about the abatements, particularly whether it applied to roads.

“I just was confused about that, I wanted it explained. Apparently, it’s turned into more of a deal than I expected,” Schinhofen said.

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