Big business mum on 1A despite cost |

Big business mum on 1A despite cost

Brandon Johnson

While Referendum 1A would cost the average homeowner about $12 in property tax credits, the cost to the county’s top taxpayers would be much higher.

But big business doesn’t plan to fight it.

Referendum 1A would allow the county to keep an estimated $960,000 in the next two years that would otherwise be refunded to taxpayers. Officials say the money would be used for capital projects that have been put off.

For Tri-State Generation and Transmission, the county’s top-taxpayer, the referendum would cost an estimated $229,600 in tax credits in 2006. Tri-State paid $5.2 million in property taxes last year.

Colowyo Coal company would lose an estimated $84,691 in tax credits, and Trapper Mine would lose $25,119.

The referendum would cost the county’s top 17 taxpayers, 14 of which are energy companies, an estimated $735,943 next year, according to the Moffat County Assessor’s office.

But despite the cost to their companies, the county’s top taxpayers haven’t taken a public stance on the issue.

“It is not a cause of concern,” Tri-State spokesman Jim Van Someren said.

Van Someren said Referendum 1A is “close to a non-issue.”

Tri-State officials are studying what 1A will mean for the company, Van Someren said. But it isn’t likely Tri-State will take a public stance on 1A before Tuesday’s election.

In 2004, Tri-State took a public stance against Amendment 37, which mandates power companies use more renewable energy.

But Van Someren said the company doesn’t commonly take a stance on ballot issues.

“Normally, it has got to be something that really impacts our operations … to a significant degree,” Van Someren said.

Trapper Mine also is not taking a position on the referendum.

“As a company, we’re not taking a stance on it,” Trapper President Ray Dubois said.

Dubois said he is familiar with the referendum and the cost to Trapper, but he won’t publicly take a stand on the issue or encourage Trapper’s employees to take a particular stance.

Salt River Power, one of the operators at the Craig Station Power Plant, said it won’t take position on the referendum either, Salt River spokesman Jeff Lane said.

“We see it as a local issue,” Lane said.

Salt River, which is based in Phoenix, stands to lose an estimated $38,866 if the referendum passes.

County officials have been quick to point out that more than 80 percent of the costs associated with Referendum 1A will come from energy companies, some based outside Moffat County.

But Moffat County Assessor Suzanne Brinks said officials aren’t intending to “thumb their nose” at the energy industry when they point out that big business will pay the bulk of the costs for the referendum.

“This county is fortunate to have the energy industry,” Brinks said. “If they weren’t here, the residents of Moffat County would not be enjoying a lot of the amenities they are now.”

Because energy companies pay the lion’s share of property taxes, they would receive the biggest tax credits, Brinks said.

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