AZTEC — San Juan County Commissioners said on Thursday that a city of Bloomfield annexation proposal will hurt the county's tax rolls, but there is nothing the county's elected officials can do to stop it from happening.
Bloomfield City Manager David Fuqua said during a presentation at Thursday evening's county commission meeting that the city will soon vote to annex more than 6,700 acres around Bloomfield. Much of the land is northeast and northwest of current city limits.
The proposal would more than double the size of Bloomfield, which is currently 7.9 square miles, or about 5,000 acres, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Several companies have operations in the proposed annexation area, including ConocoPhillips, Kinder Morgan, Williams and XTO Energy, County Executive Officer Kim Carpenter said.
There are only about eight residences in that area, Fuqua said.
Carpenter said the annexation would reduce the county's tax revenue by at least $150,000 from a franchise fee it collects from businesses in unincorporated areas. The businesses in the proposed annexation area would also no longer pay a fire excise tax and a solid waste fund tax that is collected as part of gross receipts taxes in unincorporated areas, Carpenter said.
"We want to protect our borders," Fuqua said. "(The annexation area) is where people have developed. That's where they will develop in the future, and we want to protect our future tax base."
He added, "A historical reason: Towns do this."
Commissioner Jack Fortner asked what Bloomfield would do if the commissioners were against the annexation proposal.
John Myers, a land attorney hired by Bloomfield, said the city could still move ahead with its proposal.
"Certainly, we want to get your opinion on the matter, but we can proceed with our petition (for annexation) regardless of what your decision is this evening," he said.
Fuqua said the companies in the proposed annexation area would benefit by having closer emergency responders, zoning laws for protection, city water rights and a better water system. The businesses would suffer by having an increase in their property and gross receipts taxes, he said.
Fuqua said Bloomfield is having a meeting on Monday to gather public input on the proposal.
Commissioner Margaret McDaniel said during Thursday's meeting that Bloomfield and Farmington annexation plans may eventually lead to an increase in property taxes.
"We don't have any choice, but I just want to point out that the more cities annex, and I understand your reasons, but there is loss to the county with our revenue," McDaniel said. "When we have to raise property taxes to compensate for that, it's hard for us."
On Thursday, county commissioners voted 4-0 to turn over control of several county-maintained roads to the city of Bloomfield if the city annexes the land.
Commission Chairman Scott Eckstein, who is also the mayor of Bloomfield, abstained from the vote. He said he will stay informed on the issue from both sides but will not vote on it.
"How can I properly represent the city of Bloomfield and the county when the city of Bloomfield could likely be getting revenue from the county? It puts me in an awkward position," he said. "When I ran (for both positions) I said if there was a potential conflict I would abstain from voting. And this is the first conflict I've had in the five years I've served on the commission, and I'm abstaining."Ryan Boetel covers crime for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @rboetel on Twitter.