County keeps fighting abatement of Salt River

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Moffat County lost the latest round in its battle with a local power plant about declining assessed value, but the commissioners plan to continue the fight.

In July, the county protested the state assessed value of Salt River Project, a power company housed in Craig Power Station, saying the state assigned the power company half its value.

The state denied the protest as of Aug.1, but the county has 30 days to appeal the decision with the state Board of Assessment Appeals.

"We're basically preserving our right to continue this protest," said Kathleen Taylor, county attorney.

The commissioners directed the assessor and Taylor to move forward with the protest Tuesday.

The state Division of Property Tax uses the same capitalization rate for all its power plant assessments. But because Salt River gets lower rates than publicly traded companies, its value should have been assessed higher, Taylor said.

The county's appeal information is based on research provided by E3 Consultants, a national consulting firm that specializes in property assessments. Taylor said E3 had been rushed on its research to meet the protest deadline. She believed E3 did much of the research on the Internet.

Had the state used what E3 says are the accurate capitalization rates, Salt River's actual value would almost double to $82 million. The property taxes the company pays would double as well, said Suzanne Brinks, county assessor.

Salt River's state assessed value fell more than $3 million from 2003 to 2004.

No date has been set for the appeal hearing, and it could be set for months from now. But that will give E3 more time to research Salt River Project, Taylor said.

The county contracted E3 to conduct a desktop study of Salt River Project's assessment and paid for the study through a grant from the state Department of Local Affairs. But it has received no information on the study, Brinks said.

If the county wins its appeal, Salt River could be charged legal fees. But the county could be responsible for Salt River's legal fees if it loses.

"The difference in almost doubling the assessed value is worth the thousand or so we risk," Commissioner Les Hampton said.

If the county's appeal is successful, it could use the same argument to protest Tri-State Generation and Transmission's state assessed value. Tri-State's valuation increased $9 million from 2003 to 2004, but the commissioners claim it should have increased more.

The protest is the fourth time Moffat County and Salt River have argued about the company's assessed value.

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