This legislation would provide for a uniform process for the taxation of the transmission and distribution property of utilities across the State. Under this plan property owners would be required to pay an annual fee to Office of Real Property Services (ORPS) incurred in the establishment of such assessment ceilings. Assessment ceilings would be calculated to be no less than 90% and not more than 110% of existing assessments. ORPS would utilize the local reproduction cost new, less depreciation of the property and equalization rates to determine the assessment ceiling.
The Business Council opposes certain provisions of the bill that would require ORPS to perform annual utility ceiling valuations and provide them to local assessors. The utility ceiling valuations should be completed by ORPS without any undue influence from a municipality. Any release of documentation should come after the valuation is completed by ORPS.
Under current law, utility property located in the public way, known as special franchise property, is assessed by the State, while utility property located on private property is assessed by the local assessor. As a result we get a divergence of assessment practices in the various localities throughout the state, placing a heavy burden on utilities that must deal with over 1,200 independent, individual assessing units. In almost every other state, the responsibility for assessing utility property, both in the public way and on private property, has been assigned to a state agency.
By releasing a taxpayer's documentation and supporting analysis before the valuation process is complete, third parties, like local assessors, can continue to have undue influence over the process. The purpose of this legislation is to change the law to be fairer to all parties. To do this it is necessary to move the decision making away from local assessors and third parties and put it in the hands of ORPS to make uniform and objective determinations on annual utility ceiling valuations.
For the above reasons, the Business council requests that S.5302c/A.8030c not be adopted.