Colowyo plans to move digging to Rio Blanco County

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At a glance

• Colowyo Coal Company LP plans to move all digging operations to Rio Blanco County by 2011.

• Colowyo paid about $1.7 million in property taxes to Moffat County, about $700,000 of which went to the county.

• The loss will be gradual to Moffat County.

• Officials have known about the move for a few years. Commissioner Tom Gray said the county should be able to cut increases in spending without affecting current services.

— By 2011, Colowyo Coal Company LP plans to move all of its digging operations south to Rio Blanco County.

The move would take most of Colowyo's property taxes off Moffat County tax rolls, Moffat County Assessor Suzanne Brinks said.

Colowyo owns and operates a coal mine in southern Moffat County, near Highway 13. It is the second highest taxpayer in Moffat County, Brinks said.

In 2007, she added, Colowyo's property taxes amounted to about $1.7 million, which is shared among the county, Moffat County School District and Colorado Northwestern Community College.

Moffat County stands to lose about $700,000 in property taxes during the next three years as Colowyo transitions to digging in Rio Blanco County.

There probably will not be any drastic, overnight changes for the county, Brinks said.

"The county is not going to experience this $700,000 loss in one year because they're still going to be producing in our county until 2011," she said.

After Colowyo's move, Moffat County still will see revenue from the mine after digging moves south, Brinks said.

Colowyo maintains all its offices in Moffat County, she said, as well as its crushing equipment and railroad operations.

Mine representatives are drafting a proposed plan between Colowyo Coal and Moffat and Rio Blanco county authorities that would split tax revenues in the future, Brinks said, adding officials hope a plan will be signed by the end of the year.

The mine's move is not related to any political concerns, said Jeff Comstock, Moffat County Natural Resources Department director. The coal seam that Colowyo digs runs south, across the county divide, and the company is following the resources.

The mine isn't moving away, Comstock added.

"It's just moving down the road," he said.

He and Brinks said the move likely will not force Colowyo employees to relocate or prompt the mine to cut staff.

Brinks added that there is no indication Colowyo will not return to Moffat County in the future.

Comments on behalf of Colowyo Coal could not be prepared by press time Monday, said Bob Green, director of sustainable development for Rio Tinto Energy America, the parent company of Colowyo Coal. The mine will have information available by week's end.

The School District will not be affected by the move because Colorado law requires the state to make up any local shortfall to the public school funding formula, said Mark Rydberg, district finance manager.

A CNCC representative could not be reached by press time.

Funding county services

There is no possible way to tell if Moffat County will be able to make up all or more of the budget shortfall, Brinks said.

In her opinion, though, she said, Colowyo's move does make the county more dependent on the oil and gas industries.

Commissioner Tom Gray said officials have been aware the mine would move south for a couple of years, adding the county does not plan to cut services.

"We shouldn't have to," he said. "We need to be very careful about increasing spending or committing to increasing spending in the future.

"Unless something beside Colowyo factors in, with our current assessed value and income from other sources, I believe we can continue funding services at the level we have."

Gray said the county could do some things to limit spending, which has increased about 8 percent each year for the past few.

"We can do things like cut back on capital," he said, "such as equipment spending, which we've been using to replace old equipment, and some more road overlays, which we may have to cut back on.

"But this is why we have reserves," he added, "so that we can prepare for these things until it balances out."

The county pulled in more property tax revenue than it could legally keep in 2007, and was forced to drop its mill levy by more than 1 mill. State law limits a 5.5 percent revenue increase for governments from one year to the next.

If the county is able to bring its mill levies up to their full voter-approved amount, that could be a factor in helping the county make up some of the losses from Colowyo's move, as well, Gray said.

Brinks agreed it would be a factor, adding that with so many other variables, there is no way to determine how big of a factor.

Collin Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or cesmith@craigdailypress.com

Comments

oldsage 6 years, 8 months ago

Here we go folks, Taxes too much at your mine, move across the county line and dig there and access the same deposit from a different direction. I love it. If there is a way to reduce taxes people will find a way. Hey Stan, I heard that you were looking into moving your operations out of Moffat and into Rio Blanco County too if they gave you a tax break there, is there any truth to that or would you like to keep the fools guessing? Who is going to make up the $700,000 difference? Home owners folks, that's who, and you #$@&^%(&^$%%# just voted to raise your taxes and everyone else's too! Way to go Mo Co Graduates! And other %$#&^%$#$@@&(*&%$%$% too! Excuse me folks, but stupidity really gets me worked up!

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taxslave 6 years, 8 months ago

No way Jose'. If they raise taxes again I will leave the county myself and move up to Baggs and I'm not kidding.

In the last 10 days I've counted ten (10) U-Hauls loading and leaving. I've also seen a whole lot more "For Sale" signs around town and numerous empty houses....Houston, I think we've got a problem.

Our elected officials had better wake up.

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craiggirl 6 years, 8 months ago

Oldsage - if stupidity gets you worked up, maybe you should refrain from reading your OWN comments.

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RancherFamily 6 years, 8 months ago

oldsage...My suggestion to you is to call Colowyo and request a tour. You will then see that the mine is a giant hole in the ground. They CAN"T DO directional mining. They are simply following the coal seam... And maybe you should do some research before you start calling people stupid...Those things have a way of coming back to bite you in the @$$...

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Globe 6 years, 8 months ago

Classic CDP! They do a major expo on people having unprotected sex and provide a small blurp on the fact that the county will be losing $700,000 in tax revenue. What is more important, the fact that some body is providing free tests to people who don't use a condom or that the hospital lost over $200,000 last year. Who comes up with CDP's story ideas these days?

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oldsage 6 years, 8 months ago

Research, Research my foot, the fact is that a whole bunch of fools voted to raise everybody's taxes to build new buildings and staff them with the same people who will provide the exact same service they provided in the old buildings. There are over 108 million dollars in capital improvements slated and nobody checked to see if all the coal on the Moffat County side of the Colowyo mine had been extracted? Or are they just moving to the other side, Rio Blanco, to extract the coal there to save on the taxes they pay to Moffat County?

Rancherfamily, those at Colowyo know exactly where the coal seam is and have known for a long time. That seam can be accessed on the Rio Blanco side because it is in that county also. I think a closer look at my previous post will show that I did not address underground mining. Stupid is a stupid does and voting for millions of dollars of tax increases without any improved services is as stupid as it gets! I will also be reducing my tax liability this year but not quite as pronounced as Colowyo is doing.

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RancherFamily 6 years, 8 months ago

old sage: Let me quote you "Taxes too much at your mine, move across the county line and dig there and access the same deposit from a different direction." That to me says you think they can get the same coal from the other side of the county line! THEY CAN"T!! And if you think that the taxes in Rio Blanco County are any better check out the link that I attached: http://www.co.rio-blanco.co.us/assessor/summary_of_taxes.php (Their taxes are just the same as ours and they have more special districts than we do!)

native: Thanks for shedding some additional light on the situation and for making sense. And tell your 7-year-old that I think they also need a little sunshine and some fresh air.

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slipknot 6 years, 8 months ago

Either way you look at it; taxes or not; the way MoCo is run is enough to make anyone move to Rio Blanco. Even the folks in Dinosaur, Massadona, Blue Mtn. etc. would like to see MoCo move the county line closer to Maybelle.

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