Assessor: Oil and natural gas activity ensures flat valuation for Moffat County
January 2, 2012
Moffat County residents can expect their property taxes to drop a bit in 2012, county assessor Robert Razzano said.
That's because the county's assessed values in residential and commercial property decreased by 4 and 8 percent, respectively, in 2011.
The county's vacant property, industrial property, and natural resource values also experienced significant reductions in 2011, but a spike in oil and gas activity has ensured Moffat County's total value will remain flat going into next year, according to a 2010 v. 2011 valuation report certified by the assessor's office Dec. 1.
Overall, the county's total assessed value increased by 2 percent, or $10.9 million, to $487.1 million in 2011, according to the report.
"The residential and commercial property values are based off the market, but when those go down and you can still maintain your overall value, it's good," Razzano said. "Usually when you go down, you go down in all categories and lose revenue."
Razzano said residents can expect their property taxes to drop by about the same percentages as outlined in the report.
Moffat County budget analyst Tinneal Gerber said assessed values are important to generating tax revenue for the county.
"Assessed values make up a large portion of the county's budget, so they are very important in that arena," Gerber said. "For example, property tax revenue makes up about 14 percent of the county's budget in terms of revenue.
"Even with the reduction, property tax helps stabilize the rest of the county's services and has allowed us to maintain and continue operations the way we have."
By far, the greatest reduction in value occurred with the county's natural resources, which dropped by 13 percent, or $7.4 million.
Razzano attributes the decline to Colowyo moving the majority of its mine into Rio Blanco County.
"Most of that affect happened last year, but we're still feeling the tail end of that move this year," Razzano said. "I think those values will stabilize in the future because the big move is done."
Although Moffat County saw a reduction in value in one sector of the energy industry, it also experienced a sharp increase in oil and natural gas values, which swelled by 27.5 percent, or $22 million, compared to 2010.
Moffat County Commissioner Tom Mathers said that boost has helped the county continue to weather a down economy.
"We saw our sales tax went up because of the oil and gas activity, too," Mathers said. "The oil and natural gas industries aren't going to save our world because they are not steady over the long-term, but it certainly helped us out this year."
Razzano said personal property taxes also helped the county maintain its value going into 2012.
"Commercial businesses, the mines, and the oil and gas industry pay an additional tax on their equipment," Razzano said. "It's tough on commercial businesses because they already get taxed 29 percent and then they have to pay an additional 29 percent on their personal property."
Razzano said the energy industry lobbies Colorado state legislators on an almost annual basis to get personal property taxes removed from state statutes.
But, personal property taxes make up approximately half of Moffat County's total valuation.
"If they ever eliminated that, it would kill us. We're talking about losing half of our funds," Razzano said. "It would hurt the schools, it would hurt the county, and we'd have to eliminate a lot of services."
Razzano wasn't sure if a bill to eliminate property taxes was on the legislative agenda for the coming session, but said he wasn't too worried about losing those funds since legislation has failed in the past.
"They're too important to too many small counties to go away," Razzano said.
Mathers said even though values are flat, they are another good example of how conservative decisions have helped sustain Moffat County's economy, while other Colorado counties struggle
"Even in a bad economy, things aren't as bad as we thought they might be," Mathers said.
Razzano said the county's values will be available for public view sometime this month. Residents may view the full report by visiting the assessor's office link on the county's web page at http://www.co.moffat.co.us.