Ortiz foretells huge tax hike

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By Don Pace

San Miguel County Treasurer Alfonso Ortiz told county commissioners Tuesday that there will be a nearly 30 percent increase in property taxes for east-side homeowners beginning Nov. 1.

“One issue that you will be hearing about is residents in the Las Vegas City Schools district will be seeing close to a 30 percent increase,” Ortiz said.

Ortiz said he spoke with East school district financial adviser Al Clemmons of George K. Baum & Co., who explained that an error was made last year related to subsidized spending with general obligation dollars.

Ortiz said he didn’t know why the error occurred, but this year’s increase will offset last year’s losses in the general fund.

“This is a substantial increase. For example, if a homeowner is used to paying $900 in taxes, they will pay about $1,200 this year. If you’re paying $1,500 the tax would increase to approximately $2,000,” Ortiz said.

Ortiz said he was told the tax increase would be for this year only and that, next year, the adjustment will be made downward.    

“This is the first time I’ve seen this happen since I’ve been treasurer, and I’ve been at it for 14 years,” Ortiz said.

Ortiz said he had shared this same information at an earlier function.

“I didn’t tell them this news to alarm them, because we’ll get people up in arms asking why the county is doing this. I’m not blaming anyone. I’m just saying this is what took place,” Ortiz said.

Commissioner Nicolas Leger said, “I’m sure we’re going to get calls in opposition. Was the use of general fund money an error made by the state?”

“They (LVCS district) had debts to pay in terms of bond issues, and other debts, but bond issues was one of the principal debts, so as a result they got money from the general fund to pay these debts that should have been paid with property taxes. Now it’s time to pay back the general fund.

“Once they pay that, they go back to the ongoing rate that they have to keep up with their debt service,” Ortiz said.

“Where did the error occur?” Leger asked.

“I have no idea other than to say that somebody in East Las Vegas, be it the administration or the financial adviser, didn’t follow up or realize the rates didn’t reflect what they should have reflected,” Ortiz said.

Ortiz said traditionally East Las Vegas has had lower property tax rates than West Las Vegas because they have a larger tax base.

East schools Superintendent Richard Romero said he didn’t know why it occurred, but would look into it. He did not have an explanation by press time.