Last week Blanket ISD received an $832,756 remittance payment as part of a Chapter 313 agreement with Logan’s Gap Wind Farm, a 24,000-acre project in Comanche County that includes 13 wind turbines on Blanket ISD property.
The payment will be used to improve the school district’s infrastructure, purchase technology and meet faculty needs. It comes as a lump-sum payment of lost revenue from the wind farm’s first three years.
As part of the Chapter 313 agreement, the nearly $80 million value of the 13 turbines was not added to the tax roll until Jan. 1, 2017. In the future, the state of Texas will reduce funding for the district to offset its tax gains, but the revenue loss payment “is an amount that comes to the district above and beyond” local and state revenue and the state “does not reduce funding because of this payment from the company,” according to a district document.
David Whisenhunt is the interim superintendent at Blanket ISD. He said the payment allowed him to lower tax rates as soon as he took over the job last summer. “That was the first thing I did when I got here,” Whisenhunt said. Blanket now enjoys the lowest property tax rates in the county at about 1.065 percent.
Whisenhunt said the Chapter 313 agreements are designed to help wind companies get started without massive up-front costs.
“For a little school district, that’s a lot of money,” Whisenhunt said of the remittance payment. “It has no bearing whatsoever on the money we get from the state. It’s just like gate receipts, like you find it laying on the street or something.”
Whisenhunt said the company will continue to pay the district about $250,000 a year for five years, though future payments will be “offset, to some extent, by the new values that come on line.” He estimated that the district would gain an average of $50,000 a year from the remaining payments.
Per the agreement, the value of the wind farm will be added in incrementally until it is fully reflected on the maintenance and operation side of the tax roll.
“There’s a lot of things we can do with that money that we probably wouldn’t be able to do under the current budget structure,” Whisenhunt explained. “Our goal here in Blanket is to put money into students.”
Whisenhunt mentioned new paths to the ag barn, improvements to the running track, new sports uniforms, smart boards in classrooms, laptops, iPads, classroom aides for special needs children and new technology as district needs that the payment can help with.
“We want our school to be known as a top-notch academic facility,” he said.
Whisenhunt said that although he understands community concerns about wind farms, he’s grateful for the strong financial position they’ve helped his district achieve.
“I don’t necessarily like wind towers or dislike wind towers,” he said, “I’m just looking at it from an economical standpoint as far as the school, and also not having to go to my taxpayers and ask them for money.”
Logan’s Gap Wind Farm is owned by Austin-based Pioneer Green Energy. It began operation in 2015.