EPB 'tax' payments jump with telecom

Two men work in the EPB Fiber Optic control room Thursday following an FCC decision that allows gigabit Internet service to expand beyond the Chattanooga area.

EPB's tax equivalent payments to local governments have jumped 49 percent since the city-owned utility built its fiber optic smart grid seven years ago.

EPB said its annual in-lieu-of-tax payments this year to 17 local governments totaled nearly $19.2 million. Although it is owned by the city of Chattanooga and chartered as a non-profit corporation, EPB receives no local tax money and pays a portion of its revenues to the municipalities and counties where it operates as tax equivalent payments. EPB is the largest single "taxpayer" in both the City of Chattanooga and Hamilton County through its tax equivalent payments, which are based on electric power sales and the value of EPB property and assets.

"The ability to significantly increase our payment-in -lieu-of-tax contributions to the communities we serve further demonstrates the value of EPB's fiber optic network, which has reduced power outage minutes by 60 percent while delivering next-generation communications that improve quality of life and help grow the local economy," EPB President Harold DePriest said in a statement Wednesday.

During the last decade, EPB has paid $140.5 million of tax equivalent payments to Chattanooga, Collegedale, East Ridge, Red Bank, Ridgeside, Signal Mountain, Lookout Mountain, Graysville, Lakesite, Soddy-Daisy, Walden, Hamilton County, Bledsoe County, Bradley County, Marion County, Rhea County and Sequatchie County.

In most of the communities that EPB serves, payments in lieu of tax have more than doubled since the deployment of the fiber optic smart grid, starting in 2008.