Eleven years ago, clean energy opponents in Lenawee County, Michigan, blocked a proposed wind farm that would have paid landowners and local governments up to $56.7 million over 20 years. Now, its school district is seeking a $42 million bond issue to fix its aging schools.
If the wind farm in Lenawee County, Mich., had gone online, Blissfield Community Schools would be able to tap into taxes collected from the 81 wind turbines that were intended to be part of the proposed Blissfield Wind Project.
The presence of wind turbines in a school district, such as the Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port-Laker School District in Huron County, can increase the value of the local tax base. There, “taxable value of the district has more than doubled in the past 10 years, due in large part to the taxes assessed on wind turbines,” according to a school district release.
Opposition to the Blissfield project forced its developers to move the project to Huron County, which now has 472 turbines, the most in Michigan. Opponents also led the recall of elected officials in Riga and Ogden townships, where most of the turbines would have been located.
Many needs for funding
Blissfield school officials say they need the $42 million bond issue to build “a performing arts center addition and a multipurpose athletic facility/gymnasium addition; conduct remodeling, furnishing and refurnishing, and equipping and re-equipping school buildings; acquiring and installing instructional technology and instructional technology equipment for school buildings; and developing and improving sites.”
But local residents and officials knew school infrastructure funding was needed even before rejecting the wind farm. In 2010, a $11,990,000 bond issue failed by a 1024-641 vote, records show. If township voters had approved the bond issue then, the school district would have had an existing millage rate in place that would have tapped into the revenues from the wind farm. Because that didn’t happen, the school district is now seeking more than twice as much as it sought in 2010 without the wind revenues to support the bond issue.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, a division of the U.S. Department of Education, Blissfield schools receive 73 percent of their money from the state and spend $10,978 per student.
Compare that to the Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port-Laker School District in Huron County, which is home to a wind farm. There, the district receives only 36 percent of its money from the state while spending $15,201 per student each year. That’s 38 percent more per year than Blissfield school spends per student.
Much of that extra money is because of a $19.1 million bond issue passed in 2018 that helped the district build a new athletic facility, innovation center and school auditorium.
Ray Locker is the executive director for Checks and Balances Project, an investigative watchdog blog holding government officials, lobbyists, and corporate management accountable to the public. Funding for C&BP is provided by Renew American Prosperity and individual donors.
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