It's not every day that Fairbanksans are treated to sight of the home team belting one out of the park in a contest with Alaska big oil producers. But that description would appear to fit the recent victory the Fairbanks North Star Borough and other municipalities claimed with respect to the state's tax valuation of the trans-Alaska pipeline and related properties.
Oil companies that own the pipeline were pitching for lowering its assessed value from the current $2.89 billion to $2.1 billion, hastening the depreciation trend that has left affected municipalities howling in recent years. If accepted, the producer's suggested downward adjustment would have trimmed this borough's share of the pipeline property tax revenues by $1 million, or roughly one third of this year's total.
After taking the producers' arguments into account, the state backed off its initial $3.017 billion initial assessment, and settled on a new valuation of $2.75 billion.
While less dramatic, the state's reduced valuation fell what short of what tax collectors in this borough, along with the city of Valdez and the North Slope Borough, believe the 800-mile pipeline system is worth.
Mayor Rhonda Boyles, to her credit, heeded those opinions and sent Borough Assessor Lenny Reagin, former Attorney General Charlie Cole and Steve Williams to bat for local taxpayers at a hearing before the State Assessment Review Board.
The home team cleaned up; members of the review board sent the producers' crew packing and fully reinstated the state's initial $3.017 pipeline assessment.
The adjustment translates to an extra $350,000 for this borough's treasury, and marks the first time since 1999 that the pipeline assessment has cracked $3 billion. Furthermore, it demonstrates the importance of continued vigilance by this borough and the other municipalities traversed by the pipeline delivering roughly 20 percent of the nation's oil supply.
Municipalities weren't at the table when the state agreed to the formula that has seen the pipeline's value tumble despite producers' soaring profits. Omissions of that sort simply can't be tolerated when the coming gas pipeline agreements take shape.
All in all, the local team's contributions at the plate last week bode well for the bigger games ahead. -
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