April 17, 2014

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Plant devaluation shocks Avon Lake Schools

Devaluation of the NRG Energy plant will mean costly annual property tax losses for the city and county. CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

Devaluation of the NRG Energy plant will mean costly annual property tax losses for the city and county. CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

AVON LAKE — The NRG Energy plant will be polluting a lot less in the future, but it’s also worth substantially less.

Devaluation of the plant by the Ohio Department of Taxation from about $35.9 million to nearly $16.4 million means significantly less money for the city, county and school district.

City and county officials have known for months that the aging plant, whose largest unit opened in 1970, was downsizing after being sold by Genon to NRG. The plant was devalued by about $1.2 million in 2009, but the latest devaluation of 54 percent caught officials by surprise.

“This was kind of an eye-opener,” Lorain County Auditor Craig Snodgrass said. “It was a huge drop.”

Snodgrass, who said he gave local leaders the bad news about two weeks ago, said he was unsure how much downsizing had to do with the devaluation. Snodgrass also said he’s unsure if NRG will appeal the assessment. David Gaier, a spokesman for NRG, an $8.4 billion corporation with more than 100 plants nationwide and the largest commercial generator of electricity in the nation, couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday night.

Mayor Greg Zilka said city officials were not allowed to appeal to the department.

“It’s a huge deal because it creates uncertainty,” Zilka said.

Schools Superintendent Bob Scott, who said he met with NRG officials Monday, said the district is formulating its options. In November, taxpayers passed a 10-year property tax levy that will raise $6.5 million annually in response to the $1.2 million annual depreciation.

Scott said the 3,500-student district, which has an approximately $38 million annual budget, spends about 82 percent of the budget on salaries, which is standard for school districts. Scott said 17 full-time employees have been cut since 2011 through attrition and layoffs due to less money.

In the next two years, 24 teachers are retiring, and Scott said some may not be replaced. Others may be replaced with less-experienced teachers who earn significantly less.

NRG is planning to convert the 732 megawatt plant — a megawatt provides electricity to about 600 homes annually— from a coal-fired to a natural gas plant. The conversion is in response to stricter federal Environmental Protection Agency rules to limit air and water pollution.

The plant, which Genon had been planning to close, is the biggest air polluter in the county. It annually emits some 2.4 metric tons of carbon dioxide, a major cause of asthma, lung cancer and global warming. The plant is also the seventh-largest emitter of mercury in Ohio.

Mercury is a toxic substance causing brain, heart and lung damage and brain damage in children and fetuses. NRG is seeking to continue burning coal at the plant until the conversion to natural gas in 2016.

Scott said he’s happy that the plant will pollute less, but less tax revenue creates more challenges for the district. He said the city and school district plan to hold an informational public meeting in December when they have a clearer picture on the impact of the devaluation to district finances.

“Once the final value of the new plant is established, then we’ll have a better picture of what we need to do long term,” he said.

Reporter Chelsea Miller contributed to this story.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.

  • stargazer2012

    There is NO ‘global warming’!! Documentation was found to be all falsified!!

    • stop ur whining

      yea….ok. sorry man but your out too lunch. there is such a thing as global warming. no doubt about it. it is undeniable. as for the causes being all man made…not sure how much is man made and how much is just cyclical. but there is global warming 100%.

      • bpbatista

        Not really, global temps — to the extent that there can really be a global temp — have been flat for the last 15 years. Also, it is pretty clear that global temps now are still lower than they were in the Medieval or Roman warm periods.

      • Pablo Jones

        The Earth’s cycles are hundreds of years long. 1900 was the low point so measuring any change from that point is the equivalent of tracking global warming from February to August. Sure it is going to show a rise but we don’t know if it is in a normal range or not.

        A second point is there has only been true global temperatures recorded since the 70′s with satellites. Basing historical temperatures based on what a farmer recorded on equipment that is not even as closely accurate as today’s equipment is a joke. Farm Bob records the high temperature in 1900 at 3:00pm, but the high may have been 1-2 degrees warmer at 2:30 or 3:30. If you don’t capture the actual highs it makes the average temps look lower. And if their equipment wasn’t as accurate it could be hotter or colder.

        These are the types of questions that have never been addressed. So there is doubt and it isn’t undeniable.

  • Mark B

    Keep Believeing the global warming HOAX and you will loose more in the end.
    Seriously 82% of the schools money goes to Saleries. Remember this everyone when there is a tax levy for the schools that ONLY 18% is really going to operate the school and the rest in the pockets of the staff.

    • LAB1660

      You’re so right about this! Avon Lake residents tend to pass their levies, so they get what they vote for–but now that the plant has been devalued, maybe the Lorain County Auditor could do a re-evaluation of the homes and raise the values to get extra money–you know their home values should increase since there won’t be the pollution problem…..

    • FoodForThought63

      Of course the bulk goes to pay the teachers who teach the kids, which is the whole purpose of them going to school, is it not? Would you rather the bulk of the budget go to heat and cool the buildings and pay for upkeep of the parking lots? I mean really.

  • Guest

    Everybody below must be baby boomers. http://apa.org/monitor/2012/07-08/smog.aspx…please read a report about power plant emissions from the American Psychological Association and its cognitive issues in childrens; The cognitive issues also affect geriatric baby boomers…i meant baby boomers and geriatrics. As generation Y rounds the age of maturity neccessary to have a say on politics, your going to see environmental issues putting economic want in the backseat. Finite resources can only be mismanaged for so long

  • soundreasoning
  • Macdaddyoh

    OK, there is no global warming….How about the toxicity? Do you call B.S. on that too? Clean air is better, do you agree? I would lean more towards the politicians and NRG working together, behind closed doors conspiring a plan to raise the tax base on the people. After the conversion is completed, the plant will be running 24-7. The value will remain the same and the people will still be paying higher taxes.

    • bpbatista

      Clean air is good, but a modern industrial society that does not have enough affordable electricity will not remain modern or industrial for very long.

    • Pablo Jones

      Over the last 5 years over $50 Billion dollars has been spent on alternative energy with little results in reducing green house gases or pollution. If that money would have been focused on improving and cleaning coal power plants we would have actually seen reductions.

  • Jim

    Isn’t a devaluation way better than the plant completely closing. That’s the reason we passed the levy.

  • Mark B

    Maybe they should close it all together and put up a couple wind turbins , wonder how much taxes the school would get then.

  • 2111

    It’s my understanding that the schools will receive the same amount of funding that was passed in the levy. It’s just that now the rest of the properties will have to contribute more. We went through this several years ago when home values were for the most part adjusted down in the county but very little property tax relief was realized. A six million dollar levy was passed and the schools will receive the six million dollars by law. The formula will change now and most likely residences will be carrying a heavier load of taxes.

    • johns62

      the funding from the plant has nothing to do with the money generated by the levy. it decreases the amount of monies available to the district. The fomurla will not change.

      • 2111

        So you’re stating that the district can generate less money for the schools than what was passed in the levy? Or are you stating that the district doesn’t disclose all the monies they use and generate when they go to the voters for more money?

  • alreadyfedup1

    Thank Herod Brown and his brownshirts. All the people that signed the petition to get rid of coal fired plants. I said it in my last post “wait till your electric bills goes through the roof” now you have to do a TAX levy. Keep voting “D” you see where it will get you.

  • Phil Blank

    Clean air?

    Why worry about clean air?

    Go to YouTube and look at the Cesium 137 that is hitting the west coast.

    And this is from the National Weather service, NOAA

    “”Fukushima Daiichi Cs 137 dispersion model from NOAA”"

  • bpbatista

    Carbon dioxide is a major cause of lung cancer and asthma?!?!? I always thought that it was a necessary building block for life on this planet. It’s amazing what hokum “Global Warming” fanatics will try to pass off as fact.

    • Pablo Jones

      It is just look at all the athletes and runners that are dying from all the CO2 in their lungs when they breathe. Everyone should stop breathing to prevent lung cancer.

  • ekwaykway

    Got no job and nothing to eat but hey the air is clean!

  • tickmeoff

    This may be the tip of the iceberg. look across the beautiful city of Avon Lake, and you see in their driveways any make of car but Ford, which contributes mightily to the tax base. When ford moves, I don’t want to hear no bellyaching.
    If you live in Avon Lake and you choose a Hyundai Excel over a Ford Focus, you are just making the day that much closer, that you will choose to pay higher taxes.
    What goes around, comes around.

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