Routt County Returns Peabody Tax Payment for Inaccurate Amount
Peabody Requested Special Treatment, Routt County Treasurer Brita Horn Said No
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. (August 18, 2016)– Today, Routt County returned two checks for overdue taxes sent by Peabody Energy because they were written for the incorrect amount. Peabody Energy, which recently declared bankruptcy, sent two checks totaling $1,798,507.38 to Routt County to fulfill an overdue tax bill of $1,890,155.19, including interest and fees. The check was short $91,647.81.
Peabody Energy stipulated, in its letter, that acceptance of these checks would lead to “any pre-petition date claims that Taxing Authority has for the outstanding tax amounts…shall be considered waived, discharged and released upon receipt of the Property Tax Claim Payment.”
Peabody Energy has repeatedly asked for special treatment to remedy its overdue tax bill. According to state law, the Treasurer’s Office is not permitted to reduce or waive taxes, fees, or interest for amounts greater than $50.
“Each taxpayer in Routt County will be treated the same. For a county treasurer to cut deals for some taxpayers – while making others pay their full amounts – would be unfair and would erode public trust,” said Brita Horn, Routt County Treasurer. “By law, if my office can’t offer a tax break to a single mom who worries about feeding her children, I’m not going to offer one to a multi-national corporation that just asked the bankruptcy court to pay its executives $12 million in bonuses.”
To date in 2016, the Routt County Treasurer’s Office has returned 287 checks for 364 accounts due to lack of interest or fees included when due. The office even has returned foreign monies sent to pay for taxes and interest. This is a fairly common procedure.
Peabody’s refusal to pay its fair share of taxes is causing a cash crunch in Routt County, but the Treasurer’s Office is working hard to find a solution.
In bankruptcy court, property taxes are the first items to be paid. For delinquent taxes, there are several ways to speed up the payment process. First, the Routt County Treasurer’s Office can ask the court to tell Peabody that it has authorized the company to pay all of its delinquent property taxes, not just a portion. Second, the Treasurer’s Office can ask the court to allow Routt County to proceed with its normal fall sale of delinquent taxes, which would allow Routt County to receive the funds like it does in other tax cases and Peabody will pay the buyer at the end of the bankruptcy.
There also may be other sources to help county services cover any short-term financial gaps. The South Routt County School District received an emergency, zero-interest loan from the state to cover its costs. And Routt County itself has $10 million in cash reserves, which the county may be able to loan to entities as the bankruptcy process proceeds.
“I remain committed to working with Peabody and our county officials to find a fair and equitable resolution to this issue,” said Horn. “This really boils down to whether the county treats everyone equally when it comes to tax collections, or whether our larger and more politically-connected taxpayers get special discounts, and are held to a different standard of conduct.”
Submitted to The BARN by: Brita Horn