County receives revenue exemption

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Moffat County will receive an exemption from a state statute limiting the growth of property taxes generated by new oil and gas production.

But the commissioners won't pursue an exemption for other limited property tax revenue because the county would have to share the exempted funds with the City of Craig, and state statute restricts the ways the funds can be spent.

A 1913 state statute limits annual property tax growth to 5.5 percent.

In late November, the state Department of Local Affairs approved Moffat County's application for a temporary exemption on new oil and gas revenue that exceeded that 5.5 percent limitation. The exempted funds amount to $185,734, which the county can use only for purposes related to energy impacts. That means the county can use the money for improvements in instances in which the energy industry has created a need for them. The county has identified nearly $300,000 in energy impacts that the Road and Bridge Department needs to fix.

The exemption left $268,007 in general tax growth that the county still couldn't spend. The commissioners had discussed applying for a separate temporary exemption so the county could use those funds. But they reached a consensus at a special meeting last Tuesday not to apply for the exemption.

"What bothers me is the restrictions on the dollars and the fact that we have to give half of it away," Hampton said.

The county would have to give the city $134,003.50.

"I don't care how great a neighbor you are, I'm not giving you $100,000," Hampton said.

Had the commissioners applied for and received an exemption from the limitation law, the funds only could have been used for capital projects in the Road and Bridge Department.

The only Road and Bridge Department projects that the county has discussed pursuing and qualified as capital projects according to the state's definition were plans to construct storage or containment for salt and sand, fuel and water runoff.

All three projects have been mandated by the state, but the commissioners said they were unaware of any deadline the state had set for the projects' completion.

In light of low funding for capital projects, they decided not to pursue the projects.

"If this is doing additional projects, I have trouble applying for this exemption because then we're just adding to it," Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos said.

The commissioners plan to leave the revenue that exceeds the 5.5 percent limitation alone until next year.

They are encouraging the next commissioner board to introduce a ballot initiative asking voters for a permanent exemption from the 5.5 percent limitation.

If voters approve the permanent exemption, the commissioners won't have to share the money nor will the state restrict its use.

If voters reject the exemption, the average taxpayer would receive a tax reduction of about $6, Gerber said.

Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or rgebhart@craigdailypress.com.

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