County Commission OKs higher property tax rates

Hannah Grover
San Juan County Commission

AZTEC — Residents across San Juan County will see property tax increases this year as oil and gas revenues continue to decline.

The County Commission unanimously confirmed the property tax rates during a special meeting this afternoon.

At the beginning of the meeting, County Executive Officer Kim Carpenter emphasized that the commission was confirming rates rather than imposing new rates. The state sends the county property tax rates each year that the commission approves.

Kim Martin, the county deputy finance officer, said the property values have not changed a lot in the past year. Residential properties saw a 2.78 percent increase in values and nonresidential properties saw a 5.73 percent increase in value.

While most of the county saw very little change in property values, Bloomfield saw a 28 percent increase in nonresidential values due to new construction, according to Martin.

Property taxes are based on the property type, as well as school district and municipal boundaries.

County Assessor Jimmy Voita said the increase in property tax is due to the decline in oil and natural gas industry activity. The decline is mainly attributed to persistently low prices for oil and natural gas in the commodities market in recent years.

Over the last year, San Juan County has seen a decrease of about 48 percent in the property tax of oil and gas production and equipment properties, according to the presentation Martin gave commissioners.

Both the Aztec Municipal School District and the Bloomfield Municipal School District saw larger increases in their mill rates for debt services compared to other districts, leading to higher property taxes in both districts. Aztec’s rate increased by 2.346 percent while Bloomfield’s increased by 0.614. Voita said the mill rates for school districts are voted on by the people who live within the school district.

While the value of the oil and gas property in the county has been cut in half in the last year, the school districts still need to pay their bond debt. That requires local officials to find additional revenue.

“As the economy gets worse… people’s taxes go up,” Voita said.

City of Aztec property owners will see the biggest tax increase. The mill rate for Aztec residents increased from 26.249 to 28.983 while the nonresidential mill rates increased from 32.721 to 35.097. That means an Aztec resident whose house is worth $175,000 will pay $159.48 more this year in property tax than last year.

While most areas in the county will see property taxes increase, nonresidential properties in Farmington will see a slight decrease. In 2015, the mill rate for nonresidential properties in Farmington was 27.124. The rate will decrease this year to 27.090. Voita said the decrease is likely due to recent commercial development in Farmington.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.