Aiken County is now $1.6 million richer after County Council unanimously approved a resolution on Tuesday to accept a payment in lieu of taxes from the U.S. Department of Energy.


The payment is a negotiated amount generated by the fact that Savannah River Site is partially located in Aiken County.


Aiken County Administrator Clay Killian explained that since SRS is located on federal property in the County, the Department of Energy is exempt from paying property taxes at the site. The agreement involves the Department of Energy because it owns SRS.


Technically, the Department of Energy doesn’t have to award any contribution to the County, but Killian said such agreements are typically approved in order to allow local governments to offset losses in property tax revenue.


“The Department of Energy has historically contributed to the County, actually all three counties that the property is in, Aiken, Allendale and Barnwell, some amount of money based on a negotiated value of what people think the property was worth,” Killian said.


The payment is agreed upon based on a certain percentage of the overall assessment value, he said.


“They actually don’t get into discussions about how much the improvements are to the buildings or reactors or anything above ground. They just look at the land,” he said.


SRS consists of about 300,000 total acres. Approximately 72,000 is located in Aiken County, Killian said.


Local governments can also approve agreements for fee-in-lieu of taxes, but those typically involve a county offering a lower property tax rate, an incentive to companies looking to locate their business in a particular county.


In other business, Council unanimously approved second reading of an ordinance rezoning property located off Toolebeck Road in Aiken from residential to rural horse-business district. The proposal, if approved on third reading, would rezone the property to establish an equine veterinary office and horse farm.


Council also unanimously agreed to formalize an agreement with Georgia Regents University to continue an internship partnership between the County and the university.