Commissioners discuss severance taxes


Moffat County Commissioners expressed concerns about recent interest in raising severance taxes on minerals mined in Colorado during their Tuesday meeting.

During a legislative trip last week by Club 20, an organization comprised of representatives from 22 counties on the Western Slope, and attended by commissioner Saed Tayyara, there was mention of possible increases in severance taxes on the state's minerals to help offset increasing costs statewide.

Federally owned coal, for example, results in a severance tax being paid by the producer when it is mined and removed. That amount, usually 12 to 15 percent of the value of the mined product, is less than the amount paid by states surrounding Colorado.

Half of the severance tax goes to the federal government, with the other half going to the county containing the mineral deposits. The federal government and the state each return portions of the tax to the counties where the minerals are mined.

The Department of Local Affairs receives its income from the severance tax and is responsible for distributing the state's percentages back to counties in Colorado. The money is often used toward improving the county's infrastructure.

"The intent of DOLA, when it was created back in 1992, was to send most of the money back to the counties impacted by the mining operations," Tayyara said. "We are entitled to it. We have earned it."

Tayyara said DOLA has done a lot of good for Moffat County, but he and the other commissioners also are concerned about raising taxes to the point where local mines cannot compete with other mining operations located outside of Colorado.

Commissioner Tom Gray pointed out that narrow coal seams found locally are much harder to mine than some of the coal deposits found in Wyoming.

"Local mines must stay competitive," Gray said. "I hope the Legislature is careful when considering raising severance taxes to fund projects throughout Colorado."

In other business, commissioners also reappointed Jerry Hoberg to the county's Retirement Board after a misunderstanding had him replaced by Jeff Comstock after only six months on the board. Hoberg was appointed to the board to finish another member's term, and was inadvertently replaced during board nominations two weeks ago. Comstock offered to step down from the board when he learned of the mix-up.

The board also began a search for a caretaker for the Sherman Youth Camp that will reside at the camp and also service Freeman Reservoir campgrounds through the summer and fall. Caretakers haul trash, cut firewood and maintain the facility north of Craig on Black Mountain.

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