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Tax abatement talk highlights county economics

by Bill Knowles
WALSENBURG- Francisco Vialpando, a home owner in Walsenburg, protested a tax abatement and refund with the county commissioners during the regular commission meeting last Wednesday.  The dispute highlighted the tight economy in Huerfano County.
Vialpando was protesting the actual depreciating value of his modular home versus the increasing valuation the county keeps applying to his property. “The taxes keep going up while the value of the home keep going down. This is what I don’t understand,” Vialpando told the county commission.
County Assessor, Bruce Quintana, presented the county’s side explaining how the Appraiser’s office arrived at the figures Vialpando is protesting. “In 2009 the property was appraised at $164,000 and Mr. Vialpando received a $1,056 abatement. Then in 2010 the property was appraised at about $117,000 with Mr. Vialpando receiving a 15 percent decrease in his tax rate.”
The assessed value of Vialpando’s property for 2011 will probably be around $141,000.
Vialpando insisted that Nelson Holmes, an assistant assessor with the county appraiser’s office, had indicated that he would receive a 50 percent cut on his taxes for 2010, a probable point of the misunderstanding.
And the county is expecting the valuations of property to take a deeper plunge in 2012. The Board of Equalization meets in May to hear tax rebate protests.
Commissioners approved a ballot resolution to extend term limits for the county commissioners from two terms to three terms on a vote of 2-1, with Roger Cain voting no. In part the resolution reads that, “Term limits force decisions on the public that may not be to the public’s best interest.”
Increasing the term limits would give the voting public an opportunity to keep commissioners on the board who the public deems have been doing the best job, rather then possibly picking from lesser qualified candidates who may not have the depth of knowledge about county wide issues a current commissioner may have.
A map showing a proposed redistricting of Huerfano County based on 2010 census numbers places part of Walsenburg into District One. The line dividing the city into two districts runs a straight line from northeast to southewest approximatin the railroad track. This in part removes a gerrymandering argument from the process.
Walsenburg posted a population of 3,103, and the unincorporated areas of the county boasted a population of about 2,883, with 810 in La Veta. Each of the three districts will end up with a population of around 2,000. The total county population is 6,796.