PAW PAW — A Van Buren County commissioner is upset about the substantial decrease in taxes on the Palisades nuclear plant, even though it’s still operating.

“It just doesn’t feel right to me,” Commissioner Randall Peat commented at Tuesday’s county commission meeting.

Peat’s remarks came during the presentation of the county’s annual equalization report in which Equalization Director Anthony Meyaard told commissioners that he had reduced the Palisades’ plant’s value by 25 percent this year, and planned to reduce it another 25 percent next tax year.

“We are starting to ratchet down the value,” Meyaard said. Palisades is set to close down in 2022.

Property taxes are based on half a property’s assessed value. Of course Palisades pays significant amounts in annual taxes. For example, in 2016 the plant paid $10.5 million in property taxes, mostly to Covert Township. The initial 25 percent cut will save the plant’s owner approximately $2.6 million in taxes for the year. 

Lowering Palisades’ taxable value doesn’t sit well with Peat.

Palisades’ taxes will be going down while the plant still produces electricity. “They won’t receive one dime less in income,” Peat said.

But Meyaard said that the value of the property is dependent on what someone is willing to pay for it. With the scheduled closure, it becomes less valuable to investors. When it actually closes, the plant in essence will become valueless.

Rather than phase the reduction in value over four years, according to Meyaard, the commission could order him to leave it at 100 percent until closure, at which time the value would drop precipitously. But Meyaard predicted this would likely result in a costly lawsuit from Palisades.

Peat was still unsatisfied with the explanation. He said he wants to meet with Palisades officials to see what can be done. “Seems like we can negotiate a better deal,” Peat said.

When it came time to vote on moving the equalization report to the official board of commissioners meeting on April 23 for final vote, Peat was the lone “no” vote.

Despite the reduction in taxable valuation for the county’s largest taxpayer, taxable values countywide went up by 2 percent, from $3.33 billion to $3.4 billion. Some of this is due to new construction.

New industrial construction accounted for Antwerp Township’s 9.8 percent increase, according to Meyaard. On the other end, the Palisades reduction meant a 6.7 percent decrease of the value of Covert Township, from $694 million to $647 million.

If Van Buren County could be sold all at once, the sale price would be $8.6 billion.