At its Tuesday meeting, the Moffat County Commission:
• Approved a $45,735 bid from Shepherd & Sons for a new Road and Bridge Department boiler. It was the only bid received. Although the county budgeted $25,000 for the project, Budget Analyst Tinneal Gerber said there were enough savings in other projects to afford the extra cost.
• Approved a $5,876 bid from Pilot Office Outfitters for a new Social Services photocopier. It was the lowest bid received.
Craig Last year's cheap natural gas prices will not benefit the county in 2008.
A presentation from Moffat County Assessor Suzanne Brinks at the Moffat County Commission meeting Tuesday showed the county will lose an estimated 6.2 percent of its property tax revenue compared to 2007.
Because of that revenue shortfall, county Budget Analyst Tinneal Gerber said, the county's property taxes will automatically increase to the full voter-approved amount.
The Taxpayer's Bill of Rights only allows municipalities to increase revenue up to 5.5 percent from year to year, which kept Moffat County's property taxes supernaturally low.
Now, that number is decreasing, and the mill levy for all properties - including residential - will go to the maximum approved by local voters, a roughly .0025 percent increase.
Without the mill levy increase, the county would be looking at an estimated $693,437 revenue shortfall compared to 2007, Brinks said.
With the mill increase, the county will pull in about $200,000 more, and would be down about $495,000, Gerber said.
The loss includes added revenue from the business property investigation by Oklahoma-based Visual Lease Services.
The county hired the company to look for unreported business personal property in the energy industry at Brinks' request.
So far, Visual Lease has found about $1.3 million in taxes and penalties for compressors in the county that went unreported dating back to 2002. Brinks said the company still is working on finding and valuing pipelines and gathering lines.
However, she added, companies have until July 31 to protest their valuations, and that number could go down.
Of the roughly $1.3 million, the county would receive about 40.4 percent, or $514,592. The rest would go to the Moffat County School District and Colorado Northwestern Community College.
It's unclear if the education institutions would be able to keep all the money because of public school finance laws. CNCC and Colorado Department of Education representatives could not be reached by press time.
Property tax shortfalls also affect the schools, but finance laws require the state to make up any differences in the school district's budget. CNCC officials could not be reached on whether the college's estimated losses would be recouped, also.
According to Brink's evaluation, the majority of the county's revenue loss comes from decreased values in the oil and gas sector.
Other factors include Colowyo Coal Mine relocating operations to Rio Blanco County and the state devaluing the TriState Generation and Transmission Association power plant by about $4.7 million, or about 2.4 percent of its 2007 value.
Brinks could not say why the power plant lost that much worth, but said she would be going through the state's recent filing in the next few days.
When it comes to natural gas, the loss in value across the industry mostly relates to falling prices, Brinks said.
"In prior years (to 2007), the price per (thousand cubic feet) runs around $5 to $6," she said. "Last year, it ran around $3."
Brinks added more and more companies are taking more and more deductions off their assessed production values, which accounts for how much each would owe in property taxes.
Natural gas companies are allowed to deduct their costs to refine their product and deliver it to customers from their assessed values.
"Every year, more and more of these companies start taking net back, and some of them take deductions up to 95 percent of their revenue," she said. "I spend a lot of time fighting with these people."
Residential, commercial and industrial properties across the county increased in value, but only make up about 17.7 percent of the county's property value.
Natural resources (such as Colowyo mine), oil and gas and state assessed (such as the power plant) properties account for about 78.7 percent of the county's total property value.
Commissioner Tom Gray said this is why the energy industry is important to Moffat County.
"We don't want our community to go unaware that some of the rules and regulations proposed at the state level will have a huge impact on our county," Gray said about the possibility of increased industry regulations pushing development out of Colorado.
He added that although the county will always see sporadic revenue fluctuations because it depends on the energy industry so heavily, right now there shouldn't be too much concern.
"You need to budget accordingly given the revenue fluctuations, and that's why we work with our reserve funds," he said. "Next year, we'll probably see a pretty good (revenue) increase because natural gas prices are going up."
Gerber agreed with Gray's economic assessment.
"We're on the watch," she said, "but we're not alarmed."
Collin Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or firstname.lastname@example.org