This article is by Michael Faher, of the Brattleboro Reformer, in which it was first published Dec. 18, 2014.
VERNON — Town officials say they have reached a one-year tax agreement with Vermont Yankee owner Entergy, a deal that will establish a value for the nuclear plant when it is no longer producing power.
Details of the contract have not yet been released, as the Vernon Selectboard has not formally accepted it. But Selectboard Chairwoman Patty O’Donnell confirmed a one-year agreement and hinted that it may not include a steep, quick drop in the property’s value for tax purposes.
“It was a great deal,” O’Donnell said. “It was an excellent deal.”
An Entergy spokesman on Wednesday issued a statement saying only that the company “has been engaged in discussions with the town of Vernon regarding future property taxes. Details on any future tax deals will be made available when those agreements have been approved by both parties.”
Vermont Yankee makes up about half of Vernon’s municipal tax base, so Entergy’s 2013 decision to close the plant at the end of this year has led to budget cuts and much concern about the closure’s tax impact. Though Entergy will retain ownership of the plant through a lengthy decommissioning process, the property won’t hold the same assessed value.
Currently, the town and Entergy are operating under a one-year agreement that values Vermont Yankee at $280 million until March 31, 2015 — three months after the plant closes. That’s a $20 million drop from the plant’s value in a previous agreement.
Town officials have been meeting with Entergy executives in closed-door sessions to try to fashion a new tax deal. There had been hope for a longer-term agreement that would give the Selectboard an idea of how much lost tax revenue to expect in coming years.
But that isn’t happening — at least, not anytime soon. O’Donnell cited the difficulty of predicting and agreeing on the property’s value during the process known as “SAFSTOR,” even after the recent release of a detailed assessment of the Vermont Yankee site.
“It became apparent to the listers, the Selectboard and to Entergy that it was very difficult to do a 10-year agreement when we’re just working off the site assessment,” O’Donnell said.
“We are continuing a longer-term negotiation with them,” she added. “We want to do it as fast as we can, and they want to do it so that we have that stability, but it’s just really hard to enter into that then there are just so many unknowns.”
At the same time, O’Donnell praised Entergy executives for their willingness to enter into a tax deal with the town.
“They came up last week and they were, as usual, wonderful neighbors, and they agreed to a one-year contract at a certain rate which was very generous,” she said. “We’ll have all that information once we’ve signed the contract.”
That is expected to happen at the Selectboard’s first meeting in January.