County assessments drop more than $40 million

Commission considers proposing a mill levy increase to make up the shortfall

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Assessments of area public utilities and oil and gas holdings could mean a 10 to 15 percent hit to the county budget, which would be "devastating," according to the county assessor.

The Moffat County Commission received news Monday that the state of Colorado assessments of area public utilities dropped $26 million from last year and oil and gas assessments are down $20.

"It is going to be bad on the county budget," County Assessor Suzanne Brinks said.

According to Brinks, the assessed value of the county is multiplied by the county's mill levy to generate revenues.

"We are going to appeal this," said Moffat County Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos.

County administrator Debra Murray suggested that the commission ask taxpayers for a mill levy increase so that community members would have a chance to say that services the county provides are important to them.

Raftopoulos said the county should produce two budgets -- one that would contain the proposed mill levy increase and one that would show the decrease in revenue.

"We should have a budget A, which is what we would have to cut without a mill levy and budget B, which is with a mill (levy) and a half or two," Raftopoulos said.

The commission, however, is in a quandary because county officials already have assured the city of Craig that the county would not move forward with any tax increase proposals this November.

City officials were concerned they would submit a tax increas question and the county would preempt them. Under state law, there can only be one tax increase question per election and the county's process for placing a question on the ballot can take one day where the city's can take up to six weeks.

City officials have determined that a recreation center could be paid for using a combination use tax and sales tax, but were concerned after a joint city and county meeting in May that county officials would seek a tax increase at the same time.

Those concerns were laid to rest at a commissioners' regular meeting in June.

"We certainly don't want to interfere with your election," Raftopoulos said at that meeting. "We're very supportive of (a recreation center)."

The county can appeal the assessment. The commission has 15 days to appeal once it officially receives the assessments, which will be mailed out today.

"We will probably write a letter and then they will set a hearing date, which will probably be held in Denver," said Brinks, who added that the assessments are completed in Denver for all counties in Colorado.

Brinks said the county appealed an assessment on one of the utilities last year and the assessment was raised slightly but she said she had no idea what would happen this time.

The assessment of county property is based on the value of the company that is running the public utility and not on the building itself, Brinks said.

The reason that oil and gas are down, said Brinks, is that the state allowed oil and gas companies to use a different valuation method this year, which reduces value.

The production of oil and gas also is down.

"We are running on less revenue than we were 20 years ago and things cost more now," Raftopoulos said.

Liz King is an intern with the Craig Daily Press. She can be reached at 824-7031 or eking@craigdailypress.com

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