Lunel Agglo: Is there a financial sword of Damocles on Smepe ?

Lunel Agglo: Is there a financial sword of Damocles on Smepe ?

Président du Smepe, Fabrice Fenoy multiplie les démarches. Midi Libre – JPSZ

La structure qui gère le traitement des déchets de six intercommunalités dont Lunel Agglo pourrait avoir à verser près de 24 M€ au fisc. 

Are the six intercommunalities(*) which make up the Pic et Étang mixed union (Smepe) going to have a nasty surprise from the tax administration ? just a little more than a year ago? one year after renewing, to the Suez company, the public service delegation for waste management of the Ocréal energy recovery unit (incineration plant) in Lunel-Viel; one year after having unanimously celebrated a new dawn with the ambition to finally reduce the waste input to the incinerator by nearly 30,000 t in 10 years (from 120,000 to 90,000 t/year) while maintaining an unbeatable cost (62 €/t), this is in any case an unexpected uncertainty which distresses certain elected officials.

A clause that worries

At issue: clause 43-3 contained in the new delegation contract signed between Smepe and Suez in November 2022. It stipulates « that in the event of a new tax on energy prices, the Suez company re-invoices this contribution, to the nearest euro, to Smepe. Unanimously accepted by elected officials at the end of 2022 (we were then at the very beginning of the surge in energy prices), it could constitute a threat for the intercommunalities which finance Smepe through of the household waste removal tax (TEOM). Explanation.

8 of the 24 M€ tax financeable by Smepe

In 2023, to combat speculation on the price of energy which continued to soar, the State created a 90% contribution in the event that the price of electricity would exceed 145 €/MWh between July 1, 2022 and December 31, 2023 (152 € in 2024). But this was the case, the price exceeded 145 € so much so that if the tax is applied to Smepe. According to our information, these are some 23.7 M€ which he will have to pay to the tax administration for 2022 and 2023.
A sum that obviously the Union’s own funds would be incapable of absorbing in full. Smepe could, from a reliable source, mobilize 8 M€ on its own resources. Some elected officials would also consider that the concessionaire, Suez, would be involved. But without certainty. In any case, to pay the rest of the bill to the State, the six member intermunicipalities should put their hands in their pockets and act on the household waste removal tax paid by the taxpayer.

A "serous subject" for the president of Smepe

Suffice to say that as the municipal elections approach, this prospect is a nightmare. This is what the six intercommunal presidents concerned made clear, in their own way, we suspect, to the president of Smepe Fabrice Fenoy, also mayor of Lunel-Viel and vice-president. -president of Lunel Agglo who brought them together on January 26 on this subject.
Questioned by Midi Libre, the latter (read below) believes that’« there is a serious subject, on which we have been working for two years and to date we are not sure of anything. Fabrice Fenoy recalls in particular that « the principle of administration is the exemption of communities. and does not exclude agitation aimed at « more political. » In any case, last fall Fabrice Fenoy contacted the Minister of the Economy Bruno Le Maire, the Minister responsible for Local Authorities and the Hérault parliamentarians. Moreover, the senator from Hérault Jean-Pierre Grand immediately tried to act legislatively by proposing an amendment allowing the exclusion of energy recovery units, such as Ocréal, from the tax. In vain. Recently, the senator also wrote to the departmental director of finance of Hérault, Laurent Guillon, concerning the situation of Smepe. It would currently be examined at the level of the Ministry of Finance.

A meeting requested with the prefect

Finally during the meeting of January 23, the president of Smepe and the presidents of the six intermunicipalities requested a meeting with the prefect of Hérault François-Xavier Lauch, which was recorded. While waiting to know the result of all of these steps, the Mixed Union and the intermunicipalities are therefore holding their breath. And are reassured, for the moment, of still not having received the slightest order to pay from the State.

(*) Smepe is made up of Lunel Agglo, Agglomeration of Pays de l’Or, communities of communes of Grand Pic Saint-Loup, Pays de Sommières, Terres de Camargue and Rhôny-Vistre-Vidourle.

Questions to Fabrice Fenoy, president of Smepe

Is there a risk that Smepe will be forced to pay a huge tax to the tax authorities ?

I'm not sure. The principle of this law which establishes the contribution on electricity is the exemption of communities. As we have a delegate (Suez) who operates the factory, the debate is: should we consider that it is the union which benefits from the electricity revenues therefore it is not ;is not taxed or that it is the operator who owes the tax ? to date, I do not have the answer. But we are a community and logic would dictate that the exemption be applied to us since it is the TEOM which finances the treatment of waste. We are not producers of electricity, the revenue linked to this production comes to mitigate public service charges, it allows us to have a very low treatment rate.

Some of the six intercommunality presidents seem worried, are they wrong ?

I put them together. I find them generally measured and constructive. The problem is potentially important, it's true, but I consider that the logic is that the union is exempt even if it is necessary to prepare for all scenarios. It seems to me that we are making a fuss over something that is not proven and I would not want there to be, among some, a little political game. I consider myself to be the emanation of six intermunicipalities. I owe the presidents a progress report, which is why I brought them together. If some people use it for something else, I won't get into that, it doesn't interest me.

You still contacted parliamentarians and even the ministry…

Jean-Pierre Grand worked on this and he did a good job but go and speculate on the interpretation that the tax administration will make of this or that aspect of the text c&rsquo ;is something else.

Did you underestimate the risks by accepting clause 43-3 of the new contract ?

No, it’s like an insurance contract, you don’ have no contract that protects you against fines. And suddenly attacking the clause in the Smepe contract smacks of political manipulation.

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