Churchill County approves tax break for geothermal development
FALLON – Churchill County commissioners have approved a tax break in an effort to lure geothermal companies to their rural county.
Commissioners decided Thursday to abate 2.75 percent of sales and use taxes to encourage geothermal development, making Churchill the first Nevada county to enact such a policy.
Commissioners said they not only want to attract geothermal companies, but they want to boost the county’s tax base. Property taxes from geothermal companies contribute to county coffers.
“We do provide services for geothermal activity and we support geothermal, but we have an entire county to support,” Commissioner Norm Frey said.
“By keeping the tax base up, it keeps Churchill County well staffed and keeps this process (of geothermal development) streamlined.”
Under state law, some businesses may apply to the Nevada Commission on Economic Development for an abatement of taxes on certain machinery or equipment.
Of Churchill’s 7.25 percent sales tax rate, 2 percent is automatically sent to the state. Commissioners decided to abate just more than half of the remaining 5.25 percent for geothermal expansion – 2.75 percent.
Joe Reel, director of business development and research at the commission on economic development, said he thinks only two or three geothermal companies have applied for tax abatements since the program was established in 2003.
He said the commission has the option to grant a full abatement, which would be 5.25 percent in Churchill County.
Churchill officials said they’re worried geothermal companies will go elsewhere in Nevada without the tax break.
“The typical thing with incentives is if they don’t put the project here, then someone will lure you to do it somewhere else,” Reel told the Lahontan Valley News and Fallon Eagle Standard newspaper. “That’s typical with economic development – they’ll go to the place with the best deal.”
Like the rest of the state, Churchill is rich in geothermal energy that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and others are seeking to develop in an effort to cut down on greenhouse gases and create jobs.