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KSJD Newscast - October 20th, 2015

  • Colorado Board of Equalization rejects Montezuma County’s effort to give a tax break to farmers.
  • Montezuma County commissioners adopt a wait-and-see attitude toward a National Conservation Area along the lower Dolores River.

Montezuma County’s effort to give a tax break to farmers has hit a stone wall at the state level. On Monday, Commissioner Keenan Ertel reported that although he pleaded the county’s case at a recent hearing in Denver, the state Board of Equalization unanimously rejected blanket tax relief granted by the commissioners in July. Having heard from many constituents that their property taxes had jumped as much as 168 percent, the commissioners had voted to limit increases to 22 percent for farmland. However, the state board said such a drastic cut did not follow the law. Assessor Scott Davis tells KSJD it’s now too late for the county to try to grant more modest tax adjustments for farmers. Davis explains that the problem arose because assessments of agricultural land are based on 10-year averages. Each time a revaluation is done, the assessor’s office drops the two oldest years and adds the two more recent. In the latest revaluation, that meant dropping two drought years and adding two productive years. Davis says he sympathizes with the farmers because, “It’s a lousy kind of method – one size fits none”.

Also on Monday, the Montezuma County commissioners said they would adopt a wait-and-see attitude toward a proposal to create a National Conservation Area along the Dolores River from McPhee Dam to Bedrock, Colorado. The county commissions for four counties and the boards of the Dolores Water Conservancy District and Montezuma Valley Irrigation Company have been mulling whether to move ahead with the NCA idea. An NCA has been touted as a way to protect water rights and the riparian environment while avoiding different federal designations such as a National Monument or a Wild and Scenic River. The Montezuma County commissioners agreed that they want to stay involved in the process of crafting possible legislation but that they will not necessarily support an NCA designation in the end.

Gail Binkly is a career journalist who has worked for the Colorado Springs Gazette and Cortez Journal. She is currently a freelance writer as well as the editor of the Four Corners Free Press, based in Cortez.
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