Mora assessor reports glitch

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By David Giuliani

The Mora County assessor’s office recently sent out thousands of notices of valuation to property owners, but many of them listed the wrong taxable values.

As-sessor Angela Romero said this week that the company that printed the notices accidentally left off the last number of some taxable values. For example, a property with a taxable value of $50,000 would appear as $5,000.

She said this problem could have affected as many as 3,700 of the 8,242 notices sent out.

“In our system, the data is correct. We proofread the forms, but in the actual printing, the template dropped a number,” Romero said. “We’re trying to figure out which notices had the numbers dropped off.”

She said the state Taxation and Revenue Department has given her office a 30-day extension to get out correct notices to property owners and that owners would get the usual 30-day period for protests.

The new notices will be printed at no extra cost to the county, Romero said.

Romero’s office has had a tough year. Last spring, the state informed the Mora County assessor’s office that it was charging too low a tax rate for many properties.

The state was seeking to correct a problem in which properties were inappropriately classified for grazing. In Mora County, any property under 47 acres has been ineligible for the lower taxes associated with grazing.

However, Mora County officials argued that many families have divided their land over time among their members but have not fenced the parcels. Individual plots are less than 47 acres, but cattle graze through a family’s entire area, which is much larger than 47 acres.

The number of acres associated with grazing tax status varies by county, based on a study by New Mexico State University on the livestock carrying capacities for land.

The state is now proposing to change its regulation to address the problem associated with properties classified for grazing. Romero’s office held a public meeting about the issue last week, in which state Taxation and Revenue officials attended.

Taxation and Revenue Secretary Rick Homans said this week that his agency has proposed a regulation that allows county assessors to make exceptions regarding the 47-acre rule. If someone is truly using a property for grazing, an assessor can make an exception, he said.

The department will hold a public hearing on the proposed regulation in June, and after that, officials hope to enact the new rule.

The department found out about the problem with tax rates for grazing properties in Mora County last year, but later discovered discrepancies in other counties.

“There are a lot of inconsistencies around the state,” he said. “The regulation will be an important change, and Mora County played a huge role.”

Homans said the proposed regulation will include criteria for when an assessor can give someone with less than 47 acres the lower grazing tax rate. He said that a person has to be truly using his property for grazing or some other agricultural purpose.

“They can’t have a tomato plant and call that agricultural,” he said. “It has to sustain a family.”