District, college face declining tax revenue


— The county isn't the only local authority facing declining property tax revenues.

The Moffat County School District and Colorado Northwestern Community College collect the majority of property taxes - 48 percent and 5 percent of total 2007 earnings respectively.

Representatives from each institution were at the Moffat County Commission meeting Tuesday when Assessor Suzanne Brinks presented information that the county, School District and college would lose about $1.5 million combined in 2008 compared to 2007 revenue.

The majority of the shortfall is because of cheap natural gas prices in 2007, Brinks said. Production revenues are factored in property values, and cheap prices drive down those valued profits.

Values in 2007 are used to figure 2008 taxes, which is why the shortfall will happen this year instead of last year.

The college will see a net loss this year of $88,060, Brinks estimated.

Gene Bilodeau, CNCC Craig campus dean, said the college's Board of Control knew there would be a shortfall and actually budgeted for more than $100,000 in losses.

He said the board decided to only cut funding to the college's building project. The board had previously passed a measure to donate $200,000 a year to the construction.

No other services will be affected, Bilodeau said.

The School District, which Brinks estimated will see about a $889,000 drop in local property tax revenue from last year, will not be affected, School District Finance Director Mark Rydberg said.

Public school finance laws in Colorado require the state to make up any differences in funding.

"It won't, in any shape or form, result in any less revenue for us," he said.

Craig's public schools actually will have a windfall of money in the beginning of 2009.

At the Assessor's Office request, the Commission hired Oklahoma-based Visual Lease Services to investigate the business personal property of local energy companies.

So far, Brinks said, the company has found about $1.3 million in taxes and penalties from compressors in the county that went unreported back to 2002.

For the School District's share, revenue from 2008 taxes paid on unreported equipment will go against the state's annual contribution.

However, taxes and penalties for unreported equipment from 2002 to 2007 - roughly $403,000 - will go directly into the School District's budget.

Rydberg said the School Board has not had any serious discussion about how to spend the money because final numbers aren't available.

Brinks' estimates are preliminary, as well, as energy companies have until July 31 to protest the new valuations.

However, Rydberg said he and Superintendent Pete Bergmann have briefly discussed the revenue and may recommend the School Board put the money into the district's capital reserve fund for future expenses.

Those could include items such as flooring, electrical upgrades, technology expenses or other high-dollar maintenance items.

"We've got capital need more than we've had, historically, the dollars to fund them," Rydberg said. "It's really up to however the Board wants to spend the money."

Visual Lease findings also will benefit the county and the college.

Current figures have the county pulling in $514,592 and the college netting $67,371. However, those earnings were factored in when Brinks calculated property tax losses for each group, and so the same shortfalls remain.


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