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Tax rebate question on commissioners’ agenda

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Chaves County commissioners plan to consider whether to enact a low-income property tax rebate during their Thursday morning meeting.

State law requires consideration of the issue, but a tax rebate is opposed by county staff.

The matter will be the subject of one of the two public hearings planned for the regular monthly Board of Commissioners meeting. The other involves adopting a new system for assigning addresses and new street names in unincorporated areas of the county. In addition, nine other resolutions and agreements are scheduled to be considered at the meeting.

The low-income tax rebate has never been adopted in Chaves County, former County Manager Stan Riggs said in 2019. In an agenda item summary submitted recently, Interim County Manager Bill Williams said staff oppose the rebate.

The law that took effect in 1994 requires local governments that do not already have a low-income property tax rebate in place to hold a public hearing in January of every odd year to consider adopting an ordinance to enact the rebate.

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According to state law, the rebate would be available to eligible New Mexico residents whose modified gross tax income is less than $24,000. With $22,000 to $24,000 in modified gross income, a person would receive a 35% rebate of the county and city portion property taxes. The highest rebate would be 75% for someone whose modified gross income was between $0 and $8,000.

“The problem with this rebate to low-income property taxpayers is twofold,” William’s summary states. “First, who actually qualifies as low income? The procedure to qualify is set out in Section 7-2-14, NMSA 1978. However, it is based upon New Mexico income tax returns and could possibly be manipulated. The second issue revolves around the tax itself.”

The statement explains that the county would have to pay whatever taxes were rebated. The county then could hold an election to allow voters to decide whether to impose a 1 mil property tax increase to cover the rebated amounts.

Another issue is that taxpayers would receive a rebate only for the county and city portion of property taxes, not for other parts of property taxes, such as portions collected for public schools, the state and approved bond issues.

Los Alamos and Santa Fe counties are the only two of the state’s 33 counties to have the tax rebate in place, according to Charlie Moore, communications director for the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department.

The meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday at the Chaves County Administrative Center, 1 St. Mary’s Place. The county will be limiting the number of people allowed in commission chambers, if necessary, and has said it intends to enforce social distancing rules.

The county also plans to livestream the meeting on its Facebook page, www.facebook.com/ChavesCountyNM/.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.