Assessed values up 15 percent in county

Chevron remains top taxpayer

RBC — County Assessor Renae Neilson gave her annual report Monday to the Board of County Commissioners. And it was good news.
Based on preliminary numbers, the total assessed value in Rio Blanco County is up 15 percent.
“That should make them (the commissioners) happy,” Neilson said.
What does the increase in assessed value mean, exactly? It means a big increase in taxes county government will collect. How big? Almost $1 million, estimated.
“So, with your current mill levy (of 9.05 mills), that’ll increase your taxes $969,000,” Neilson reported.
Of course, the biggest reason for the increase is due, in large part, to the rise in oil and gas activity.
“It is probably no surprise to you guys,” Neilson told commissioners.“ The top 50 taxpayers, or assessed value, are all industry related.
“Your top ones are, of course, Chevron, Enterprise came in second, Encana, ExxonMobil and Merit (Energy),” Neilson said.
Chevron is far-and-away the biggest. “Chevron is a huge taxpayer,” Neilson said. “I told a guy with Enterprise, you’re in second place, but you’ll never catch Chevron. Chevron is mostly production, and production pays a higher tax rate.”
Does Neilson expect the upward trend in the taxable assessed value to continue?
“This is very hard to answer,” she said. “However, with the price of oil and gas and the second phase of the (Enterprise) gas plant in the process of being built next year, we could again see an increase in value.”
Last year, 76 percent of the entire taxable value for the county came from the oil and gas industry, Neilson said.
“That is strictly (due to) oil and gas equipment and oil and gas production,” she said.
By comparison, Neilson said, agriculture pays 1 percent of the tax base. She expects the percentage of the tax base paid by oil and gas companies to be around 71 percent for 2008, based on preliminary numbers.
“Every place I go, people say, ‘I hope you’re going after those oil companies. They need to pay their fair share,’” Neilson said. “Well, they are. I know we’re all paying high taxes, but they do, too. I think it’s important people know that.”
The total assessed value in the county — as of July 10 — is $819,522,530. That’s an increase of $107,078,290. Values won’t be final until Dec. 10.During this year’s protest periods, there were 70 real property protests. Real property refers to, for example, any land or buildings, plus mineral rights.
“A little over 75 percent of those (protests) came from one taxpayer — Elk Creek (Ranch Development),” Neilson told commissioners.
Of the 70 real property protests, 56 were denied and six were adjusted. Eight were void.
“Any taxpayer has the right to appeal,” Neilson said.
Commissioner Joe Collins asked how those numbers compared to other counties.
“Our numbers are low (compared to other counties),” Neilson said. “We’re probably 5 percent of what other counties have (number of protests). I guess that means I’m doing my job right.”
For personal property and oil and gas equipment, there were 24 protests. Of those, 19 were denied and five were adjusted. Personal property is considered anything used in a business.
“I’m happy to report that no oil and gas protested their equipment values,” Neilson said. “Our area went up a lot. An awful lot of them at least doubled (in value) … and some of them quadrupled in value, so that was a good thing (there were no protests).”
Neilson said the reason no protests were filed by oil and gas companies is because the three entities (state assessors, the Colorado Division of Property Taxation and the Rio Blanco County assessor’s office) worked together to come up with a new cost manual for valuing equipment.” That’s why there were no protests,” she said.
Neilson reported there were 26 drilling rigs assessed in Rio Blanco County in 2007.
“We only value rigs for the amount of time they are in the county,” she said. “If they’re in our county for 50 days, that value gets allocated accordingly. Typically, there are about 16 rigs here year-round.”
One stacked or non-operational rig was assessed last year.
“I have been here long enough where I remember when there were more stacked rigs than rigs drilling,” she said.
That’s certainly not the case now.