County to assess cell tower tax rates

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Cellphones have become such an integral part of our lives that with that integration comes an additional source of funding for local governments in the form of taxes, when they are properly assessed.

To know how those taxes are generated, you would have to know the intricacies of how cellphone companies establish their networks, typically comprised of a series of cellular towers that keep us all connected, many of which are placed on private land. The company then pays the landowner rent to house that tower.

The county is then tasked with collecting taxes on the land on which the towers stand and the personal property, meaning the tower itself.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The land value is assessed from the monthly rent each property owner receives from the cellular companies. And because it is classified as commercial property, it falls into a different tax bracket.

We pay cellular companies a monthly bill, which at times comes with additional fees and taxes, some of which defray the cost of doing business by the cellphone company. All this is just a taste of what it takes to provide cellular service. Tax Assessor Gary Beech has been trying to understand the process as well, meeting hurdles in his attempts to get the information he needs to ensure these parcels of land are properly taxed because some of the contracts between landowners and the companies are not public record.

It takes a lot of cellular towers to ensure we can make calls anywhere within the county, and the nation. That’s a lot of tax revenue that could be put to use. But the hurdle Beech faces previously kept him from accurately calculating the proper amount of tax that should be charged for that land. He has said recently that he’s been able to get the information he needs for some of the rentals, enabling him to accurately assess the proper amount of tax.

While that extra funding won’t mean a substantial increase to the county’s tax coffers, we are glad that Beech has put effort into ensuring that even cellphone companies and the landowners they pay rent to are paying their fair share.