BP settles tax dispute with county

By Oliver Lazenby

BP and Whatcom County settled last month on a multi-year dispute over the county’s assessed value for the company’s Cherry Point refinery.

They settled on a land value of $840 million, according to documents filed with the Washington State Board of Tax Appeals. That’s about $238 million less than the county’s assessed value of about $1.08 billion, but much more than $476 million appraisal that BP presented in its original appeal, said county assessor Keith Willnauer.

The result is that BP will pay nearly $8.7 million in property taxes this year instead of the $11.1 million it would have paid on the county’s assessed property value.

Taxpayers will actually see a reduction in their property taxes. BP has been paying less than the county’s assessed amount since the dispute began – as required by a statute governing tax disputes of a certain size – and now has to pay about $4.8 million in back taxes.

“In the last three years, all of the taxing districts have absorbed the full loss and taxpayers in this interim had experienced higher tax rates to offset that reduction,” Willnauer said. Going forward, homeowners will effectively be paying less as BP’s back taxes roll in.

BP’s Cherry Point refinery is within the Blaine school district and its property tax is 23.63 percent of the district’s tax base, Willnauer said.

BP has invested more than $750 million into modernizing the refinery in the past 10 years, according to its website.

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