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2 businesses on auction list

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Thousands owed in property taxes

By Martin Salazar

The tax man cometh.

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Gonzales Funerals & Cremations and El Rialto Restaurant have fallen years behind on their property taxes, prompting the state Taxation and Revenue Department to initiate the process of putting the two properties up for public auction on Sept. 3.

The two businesses have been fixtures in Las Vegas for decades.

Gonzales Funerals & Cremations, located on Hot Springs, has been delinquent on its property taxes for more than 10 years, racking up $55,000 in unpaid taxes, penalties and interest.

Billy Rogers, the proprietor of Gonzales Funerals & Cremations, said Thursday he is working with tax attorneys and is hoping to work out a payment agreement with the state for the unpaid taxes.

El Rialto Restaurant, located on Bridge Street, has been delinquent on its property taxes for about five years, and at one point owed $31,000.

El Rialto has since paid off about two-thirds of its debt, and Chief Deputy San Miguel County Treasurer Justin Garcia said the restaurant has entered into a repayment agreement with the state that will likely allow it to avoid being put up for auction.

Ralph Garcia, the owner of El Rialto, said he borrowed money to pay most of the debt and added that the rest of the tax bill will be paid.

It’s been a difficult year for Garcia, who earlier this year lost his wife, Frances.

Asked why El Rialto fell five years behind on its property taxes, Garcia said he has employees to pay and is also having to deal with high utility costs and high food costs

“We’re very hard working people, and we can pay as much as we can,” Garcia said. “The economy is not the hottest in the whole world. We’re just trying to survive.”

Gonzales Funerals and El Rialto are among 26 properties listed in a legal notice that appeared in Wednesday’s Optic. The notice, from the state Taxation and Revenue Department Property Tax Division, states that a public auction will be held at 9 a.m. at 500 West National Avenue. It lists the 26 properties that are slated to be auctioned off as well as the minimum bid for each property, which is the amount of property taxes, penalties and interest owed on each of the properties.

San Miguel County records show that Gonzales Funerals & Cremations has an annual property tax bill of $3,811.75, while the annual property tax bill for El Rialto is $4,214.22.

Cesario Quintana, director of the state Property Tax Division, said property taxes pay for everything from schools and county government to road maintenance.

“Out of the local property tax, the majority of it goes to your schools,” Quintana said. “Really, that’s probably the most important part.”

He added that when someone doesn’t pay “it kind of hurts everybody else that is making the effort to pay their property taxes.”

Under state law, county treasurers are required to report delinquent property taxes to the state after 2.5 years, Quintana said. Once the delinquency hits three years, the state’s Property Tax Division begins its collection efforts.

If those efforts fail, the state initiates the process to put a property up for public auction. A property owner can prevent his or her property from being auctioned off by paying off the debt or entering into an installment agreement with the state, Quintana said.

The last property tax auction in San Miguel County was held in June of 2012.

Under current statutes, the state can collect only up to 10 years of delinquent property taxes. Unpaid property taxes older than that are removed from the books.