Small Town News


Declining property tax revenue impacting next budget

The Raton Range of Raton, New Mexico

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TRINIDAD — Las Animas County will have to dip into its general fund in order to balance the proposed 2011 budget. Even after cutting expenses and accepting the voluntary resignations of several employees the county will need an additional $750,000 to meet the legal requirement of a balanced budget.

Some $500,000 of the needed money comes from the general fund — which funds the county's main departments — with the reminder coming from Payments in Lieu of Taxes funds, normally earmarked for the county Roads and Bridges Department for capital improvements.

The county has had to drastically reduce its staff to come up with a balanced budget for 2011. The county will have only 64 full-time employees next year as opposed to 78 in 2010, a reduction in full-time staff of 18 percent. A voluntary termination program, in which an employee gets a $6,200 buyout for leaving his or her county job, has been a key in achieving the required budget cuts. The buyout money amounts to one year's health insurance premium.

At its meeting Tuesday, the county board of commissioners also relayed the news they had received from the county assessor's office that property tax revenues are expected to fall by an additional $1 million from last year's total.

The county is heavily dependent on revenues generated from natural gas production, and its assessed property values reflect that fact. The recent drop in natural gas prices has seriously deflated property values in the county. This year, assessed property values in the county were $845,630,620, which meant the county's mill levy of 9.357 mills generated $7,912,566 in tax revenue. In 2011, it is estimated that property values will drop to a total of $450,476,710, with the same mill levy generating only $4,223,929 in tax revenues. This means a one-year reduction in county tax revenues of $3,688,637.

Things get even gloomier when the loss of state grant money is factored into the equation. Most state grant funds have been severely reduced or eliminated entirely.

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Original Publication Date: December 10, 2010

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