Veolia North America may be paying an additional half-million dollars on its next Clark County tax bill after a site visit from the assessor’s office uncovered millions of dollars in unreported personal property
By JOEL PHELPS | arkadelphian.com
This post was updated 10/25/23 to include a statement from Veolia North America.
The Clark County Equalization Board agreed in a 4-0 vote to tax Elemental Environmental Solutions LLC, doing business as Veolia North America, for $43 million worth of assets the company failed to report to the assessor’s office.
Assessor Mona Vance began probing Veolia’s assets after the company disputed that some of its property had been double-assessed. Vance cited an Arkansas state law that allows assessors to review a company’s financials. Doing so allowed Vance to uncover millions of dollars worth of unrendered assets. An Oct. 10 site visit to the Gum Springs plant led Vance to discover even more unclaimed personal property, including various electronics, appliances, computers, tools and security systems.
In total, Vance found $73 million in unrendered assets.
Among the property Veolia apparently failed to report was a pair of enormous air scrubbers, valued at $36 million, that will be part of the company’s new thermal waste treatment facility, expected to be complete by 2024.
The EQ board’s two-hour meeting began with a hearing that included presentations from Vance and a third-party company contracted to represent Veolia in tax matters.
Vance noted in the hearing that Veolia had provided her office with a list of asset disposals totaling $21 million the company apparently rid itself of in its onsite landfill — including three heavy equipment tractors whose value alone totaled $745,360.
The Dallas, Texas-based Ryan LLC represented Veolia in the hearing. The Ryan representative’s dispute was that Vance’s office had placed higher values on Veolia’s property. The Ryan representative asked to remove $5.7 million worth of doubled assets, as well as to remove the air scrubbers as they aren’t yet in use. Also requested of the EQ board was to use Ryan LLC’s fair market value of $31.9 million rather than the assessor’s $74 million full value.
Vance finished her argument by saying her decision to tax Veolia on the unclaimed property was a fair one. “I don’t want to impose this much tax on somebody,” Vance said, “but at the same time we cannot ignore the fact these items were not rendered. How would I look other people in the eye and say, ‘I let them slide’?”
Following the hearing, the EQ board seemed perplexed by the numerous figures that had been presented, and also were left scratching their heads at the items Veolia had claimed to dispose of in its landfill.
Discussion continued for 50 minutes after the hearing concluded as the board considered tabling the matter until it heard a more complete report from Veolia’s accountant. However, an Oct. 31 deadline for the county to report tax figures to the state forced a prompt decision.
“If they operate in other places, they have to report their assets there,” EQ board member Keith Runyan said. “Are they just seeing if they can get away with not reporting their assets here?” Veolia North America operates in 350 locations across the continent, according to the company’s website.
The board ultimately agreed to remove the $5.7 million in doubled assets, bringing the total assessed value to $68 million. In taxable dollars that equates to roughly $712,000 based on the local tax formulation of 51.75 mils.
The company’s 2023 tax bill for personal property will be an estimated $764,012, according to the assessor’s office. Veolia’s 2022 tax bill in Clark County was $307,310.
The county’s equalization board meets twice a year and mediates contested tax assessments. Members include Vickie Egleston, Keith Runyan, Glen Hill, Dee Ross and David Williams. Williams was not present at the meeting.
Veolia has until Oct. 31 to appeal the decision to county court, which is presided over by the county judge. The company said later that it has no plans to appeal the matter. The company released this statement on Oct. 25:
“Veolia North America has consistently paid its taxes concerning its facility in Gum Springs, and will continue to do so. VNA is making a significant investment in a new incinerator at the Gum Springs site and has been acquiring a large amount of equipment, which has not yet been assembled. Whether taxes on this equipment are due the moment they arrive on site or only after they have been assembled and installed in our new project was unclear to our tax experts. We will nevertheless fully respect the decision of Assessor Vance and the Clark County Equalization Board and will pay the tax they have decided is due now, rather than when the plant is completed. VNA is proud to be part of the Clark County community and we take our responsibilities seriously, not only as a taxpayer, but also as an employer and a company committed to economic growth and stability in our community.”