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Former commissioner supports oil audit

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ARTESIA — Despite getting criticism regarding an audit of oil and gas equipment in Eddy County, one former county commissioner supports it.

A Town Hall meeting was held earlier this month and was conducted by Eddy County Assessor Gemma Ferguson and Jerry Wisdom from Total Assessment Solutions Corp. They’re the company that has been doing the work.

The process for the audit started years ago as former Assessor Karen Robinson filed a lawsuit against former commissioners because she was denied a contract to hire a company to do the work.

A district court ruled in favor of Robinson. Commissioners appealed and then a couple of years ago the New Mexico Supreme Court sided with Robinson.

Pearson

Former District 2 County Commissioner Royce Pearson said some people might be overlooking something from the high court’s ruling and that gives any county assessor across the state the right to conduct the same kind of audit.

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Pearson joined the commission in 2013 and he said the governing body at that time found Wisdom to be personable and knowledgeable. Pearson added that Wisdom approached oil and gas companies in the county.

“Not one oil and gas company was interested in talking to him about the audit, which was disappointing,” Pearson said.

Pearson said the audit has been going on for more than a year and the audit has uncovered some downstream oil and gas companies that he said, “remitted their property tax or remitting their property taxes to the proper (school) districts.”

Downstream is defined as the refining of petroleum crude and processing and purifying of raw natural gas.

Pearson said he was told one company was paying taxes to the Loving Municipal Schools and they should have been paying those to the Carlsbad Municipal Schools.

“That’s just one of the things that has been discovered,” Pearson said.

He said critics of the audit are upset because the county has spent around $1 million to get payments of around $300,000.

He said the tax payments won’t be a one-time venture, instead it will be ongoing.

“Our kids in the classrooms are the ones that will benefit mostly from the property taxes that are collected from these companies,” Pearson said.

Pearson added, “We as individuals get property tax notices from the county twice a year and that does not exclude anybody in the oil patch.”

Pearson said taxes paid by oil and gas companies not only benefit the three school districts in the county, but they benefit all citizens.

“Everybody should be paying their taxes,” he said.

Along with being a county commissioner, Pearson also spent decades working in the oil and gas business.

General assignment reporter Mike Smith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 307, or at sports2@rdrnews.com.