Las Animas County asking voters for sales tax increase
TRINIDAD — The county requires voter approval to add a one percent sales tax to the November ballot. In the past, voters have been against the tax, but the county says adding it would help develop a workable budget so services aren’t cut, employees are retained, and projects are completed. The county does not have a county sales or use tax presently in effect. If approved during the Nov. 3, 2015 election, the revenue would be credited to the Las Animas County General Fund and divided among the various offices beginning Jan. 1, 2016. “This tax isn’t just being paid by the residents of Las Animas County. Anyone who is driving through and stops and purchases something will pay this tax,” said County Administrator Leann Fabec. About 16,000 vehicles pass through just the city each day, about six million vehicles move through the county every year. Projected revenue from the sales tax could increase the county’s take by about $950,000 in 2016. “It isn’t 2016 that we are looking at, it is 2017 that’s going to be the bad year,” Fabec said. Property valuations have declined in recent years, in part from the collapse of property values, and an exodus from the county by Pioneer Natural Resources earlier this year. The current situation began
developing nearly 30 years ago, in budget year 1994, as assessed valuation, the factor that the mill levy draws from to produce the actual revenue used in the county’s general fund, began a steady climb. The increase in values came about because of rising property values resulting from an increase in activity such as hiring and contracting by Pioneer Natural Resources. At the time, the valuation of property in Las Animas County was over $79,000,000. A little more than a decade later, in budget year 2010, the assessed value hit an all-time high of nearly $846 million. The actual revenue for 2010 coming into county coffers was almost $8 million. In budget year 2010 to budget year 2014, county wide property valuations showed a steep decline to about $373 million, which correspondingly, cut the county’s revenue by over half, to about $3.5 million. The assessed valuation’s relation to actual revenue generated is based from one year to the next. If, for example, the assessed valuation for the county in a given year, was $407 million, the county would receive about $3.7 million from that valuation the following year, based on a 9.357 mill levy. The mill levy is one/one thousandth of a dollar. So as property valuations decline, revenue for the county also declines. Eventually it may lead to a cut in services, layoffs in the workforce, and a drop in funds to do projects such as road and bridge repair. Even though the county has one of the lowest mill levys in the state, Fabec said “Las Animas County is one of the top ten counties on bang for the buck for property taxes and we will manage the sales tax revenues the same way.