Colowyo official discusses planned move to Rio Blanco

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— Colowyo Coal Co. is not leaving Moffat County for any reason other than it is following the coal seam, said Bob Green, director of sustainable development for Rio Tinto Energy America, the parent company of Colowyo Coal.

"The Colowyo mining operations are following a logical mining sequence that will take the active mining advance from Moffat into Rio Blanco County," he said. "This is not related to tax structures."

The mine plans to move all its digging operations into Rio Blanco County by 2011, Moffat County officials said.

All together, county agencies expect to lose at least $1.7 million in property tax revenue, based on 2007 valuations and activity.

The county plans to see $700,000 come out of its budget, while the Moffat County School District will lose about $900,000, and Colorado Northwestern Community College Craig campus will lose about $90,000.

Colowyo officials currently are drafting a preliminary agreement on how to split business personal property tax revenue between Moffat and Rio Blanco counties, Green said. Mine officials set a goal to have a Memorandum of Understanding signed by all stakeholders by the end of the year.

The company does not plan to say goodbye to Moffat County, Green added.

Colowyo mine officials are pursuing options to lease about 1,400 acres which begins about five miles northwest of State Highway 13, near existing Colowyo facilities, and extends west.

That lease would involve mining coal in Moffat County, Green said.

However, until new Moffat County leases are signed, Colorado Northwestern Community College stands to lose about $90,000 in property tax revenue.

The college cannot count on the state to make up losses in revenue like public school districts, said Gene Bilodeau, CNCC Craig campus dean.

Public school districts are funded through a state formula that calculates how much money districts receive per pupil. By law, the state must provide any funding that local taxes do not provide.

"When that money goes away for us," Bilodeau said, "we don't have a mechanism to recoup that."

However, Bilodeau added that the college's expansion plans shouldn't be compromised, even though he added $90,000 is a "big hit."

"I don't anticipate that will halt any of our expansions or any of our program plans," Bilodeau said. "I just means we'll have to tighten our belt by $90,000."

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

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