San Juan County Commission confirms higher property taxes

Dan Schwartz
The Daily Times

AZTEC >> The San Juan County Commission on Tuesday confirmed the state's approval of a measure that increases property tax rates for some school districts and cities in the county to compensate for a decline in expected oil and gas production revenues.

The Aztec Municipal School District raised its property tax rate more than all of the other districts and cities. Under its new rate — 1.702 mills per $1,000 net taxable value of a home — property owners whose homes are worth $150,000 will annually pay almost $1,100, which is $85.10 more than they paid previously.

Home owners also will pay more property taxes each year in all the other school districts and cities. But some will pay only slightly more.

In Aztec city limits, for example, an owner of a home worth $150,000 would pay $83.25 more in property taxes annually, which is a total of about $1,300. But in the town of Kirtland, where property taxes are the lowest, residents who own homes of the same value will pay just 15 cents more a year for an annual payment of about $1,020.

The commission approved the new rates unanimously and without discussion.

County Chief Financial Officer Marcella Brashear said before the meeting that officials are predicting the county will receive less revenue from oil and gas production, and increasing the tax rates helps compensate for the lost funds.

"They've got to collect more revenue to pay the debt service," she said of the school districts.

Annual county tax revenues from oil and gas production have fallen nearly 30 percent from fiscal year 2011 to fiscal year 2015, according to county documents. That's a decline of more than $1.6 million, from about $7.1 million to about $5.5 million.

"The oil and gas industry is still a large part of our economy," County Chief Operations Officer Mike Stark said in an interview, explaining that when production in the oil fields slows, the impact to local governments and school districts is direct, he said.

Dan Schwartz covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606.