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County to repay Coso

June 21, 2013

Coso Operating Company's geothermal plant in Southeast Inyo. FILE PHOTO

Coso Operating Company has settled its appeal of Inyo County’s property tax assessment for 2010-12 for Coso’s geothermal plant in Southeast Inyo. The re-assessed property value means the county owes the company for taxes that were paid.
The county won’t be hit for the total $825,000 difference, as the Board of Supervisors, in response to Coso’s appeal, “impounded” $1.1 million in taxes that Coso paid on the 2010 assessment.
According to Inyo County Tax Assessor Tom Lanshaw, Coso Operating Company pays 1 percent of its assessed value in property taxes to the county. In 2010, the company was originally assessed at $7.1 million; in 2011 it was assessed at $737 million; and in 2012 the property was assessed at $484 million.
At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, the board, acting as the Inyo County Board of Equalization, came to an agreement with Coso Operating Company that brings those assessments down to $602 million for ’10; $450 million for ’11 and $425 million for ’12.
Shepherd said those numbers come out to a total difference of $825,000 in taxes. However, Coso Operating Company only paid a portion of its taxes for 2011 and ’12, and still owes the county about $500,000 for those years – so Inyo County really only owes Coso $325,000.
“We do have enough money impounded to cover the money we owe,” Shepherd said. “I will release (the remainder of that money once Coso Operating Company is paid off) and it will go to the county and special districts,” such as schools.
Lanshaw said the dispute in the assessed value stems from a difference in opinion.
“Their production,” Lanshaw said of Coso Operating Company “is going down. The resource is not responding. When you value a property, you always look forward. In 2010, they just did some large improvements. That’s why they had a $737 million valuation the next year.”
But, Lanshaw said, as operations continued for the company, those optimistic appraisals proved incorrect. “They always took a pessimistic view,” Lanshaw said. “Maybe their pessimism was more accurate. I honestly don’t think they’re getting the return we all expected.”
Lanshaw said that he is happy to have the appeal resolved and be able to move forward.
“I’m beginning to agree with them that things aren’t as rosy over there as it was a few years ago,” Lanshaw said. “Are we both upset? Are we both happy? I don’t like it, but I’m glad that we have reached an agreement. I wouldn’t have agreed to it if I didn’t think it was OK.”

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