County’s assessed value dropping in 2012

In other action …

At its regular meeting Tuesday, the Moffat County Commission:

• Approved, 2-0, a $42,152 bid from Patriot Highway Markings for county road striping projects.

• Approved, 2-0, a $115,260 bid from APH Construction to replace windows at the Moffat County Courthouse.

• Approved, 2-0, hiring a temporary, part-time assistant for the Moffat County Fair.

• Discussed YTIME Now, LLC timekeeping software.

• Approved, 2-0, May 29 and June 26 Department of Social Services meeting minutes.

• Approved, 2-0, a memorandum of understanding for reimbursement of accounting services and training.

• Approved, 2-0, vehicle replacement for the Department of Social Services.

• Approved, 2-0, Department of Social Services Child Protection Team.

• Approved, 2-0, a Court Appointed Special Advocates memorandum of understanding.

• Heard Department of Social Services monthly reports.

— Commissioner Tom Gray was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.

Moffat County’s assessed value is going to drop a few points this year, according to estimates by the Moffat County Assessor’s Office.

Moffat County Assessor Robert Razzano presented the Moffat County Commission Tuesday with a snapshot of the county’s current valuation.

If trends continue, the county’s 2012 assessed value could drop by $11.8 million, or 2.43 percent, to $475.2 million.

Moffat County’s 2011 final valuation was $487.1 million.

Tax revenues are expected to decrease by $250,000 to $275,000 as result of a lower overall assessed value, Razzano said.

“It’s not panic stage yet,” he said. “We’re trending down, but I foresee a one-year downturn.”

Razzano cited a drop in the county’s natural resources valuation as the main reason for the overall decrease.

Natural resources values are expected to devalue from $46.5 million in 2011 to about $35 million in 2012.

Although Razzano talked about decreased production at Trapper Mine and Colowyo Coal Company, about $8 million of the more than $11 million valuation decrease to natural resources is due to a tax appeal by Questar Gas.

Questar operates a natural gas pipeline in Moffat County, which had not been appraised according to state guidelines, Razzano said.

Commissioner Tom Mathers said for a long time there wasn’t an assessed value on Questar’s pipeline at all.

But about four years ago the county hired Visual Lease Services, a re-evaluation projects company based in Holdenville, Okla., to locate and map various pipelines in the county.

When it was discovered that Questar had not been paying taxes on its natural gas pipeline, then assessor Suzanne Brinks appraised its value to the max, Mathers said.

“You can appraise value anyway you want to, and people and companies can appeal those rates to have them abated,” Mathers said. “We always knew the state would step in eventually, but we decided at the time to assign a higher value to level out the playing field for the years we (the county) weren’t able to collect revenue (on Questar’s pipeline).”

When Questar appealed its appraised value, Jeremy Snow, Moffat County attorney at the time, recommended the commission settle and follow state guidelines in the future, Razzano said.

Had Questar not appealed the appraised value of its pipeline, Moffat County would have been fairly flat going into 2013, Razzano said.

“It’s good and it’s bad,” he said. “It’s bad because we’re going to lose revenue, but we were going to take that hit sooner or later.

“It’s good because we are on the state’s guidelines now, so we can defend protests in the future.”

The county also took hits on industrial property, oil and gas, and state assessed values.

But the county has experienced slight upward trends in 2012 to its assessed valuation of residential, commercial, agricultural and vacant property, according to assessor’s office estimates.

The commissioners were surprised by the drop in oil and gas values, albeit a small one of .25 percent.

Last year, oil and gas activity was praised for helping the county maintain a flat valuation going into this year.

But with residential and commercial values expected to dip next year, Razzano hopes oil and natural gas activity ramps up in a hurry.

“The next period we’re looking at is all of 2011 and the first six months of 2012 for valuations of next year’s appraisal, and that wasn’t a good time for residential and commercial sales in Moffat County,” Razzano said. “We’re looking at a significant drop in those two areas, so I’m hoping oil and gas picks up.”

Mathers believes the questions surrounding the Niobrara Formation’s viability will begin to be answered in August.

“Shell has told us that they should know by August whether they intend to develop a field or not,” Mathers said. “I went out to Axia’s (Energy, LLC) well out there by Maybell and I have never seen so many people so positive about what they were seeing from one well.”

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