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County treasurer says fall tax billing to be delayed

Chaves County property owners will receive their tax bills a month later this year due to a change in state law and a school district bond issue question, says County Treasurer Charlotte Andrade, who spoke at a Thursday meeting of the Chaves County Board of Commissioners. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

Chaves County property owners will receive their fall tax bills a little late this year, according to County Treasurer Charlotte Andrade, and the entities that rely on the disbursements of the tax funds will see a delay in their disbursements.

Andrade explained to commissioners that a change in state elections laws created by the passage and signing of House Bill 407 in April 2019 enables public school districts to have bond issues on local election ballots and to have the increased tax rates take effect the same tax year if voters approve the bond issue.

In the 2021 local elections, Elida Municipal School District has a bond issue.

A small portion of that district lies in Chaves County, while most of it is in Roosevelt County. Andrade said that the Chaves County property in the Elida district represents about $86,000 of the county’s tax roll, now about $34.5 million a year.

But results of the 2021 local elections will not be known until voting day on Nov. 2 at the earliest and will not be certified officially, given that the school district is a multi-county jurisdiction, until the New Mexico Secretary of State conducts its canvass of election results on Nov. 23.

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By state statute, fall tax bills are sent out Nov. 1, with entities receiving their largest portions of the money in November and December, Andrade said. According to the county website, the groups receiving portions of county property taxes are the State of New Mexico, Chaves County, school and college districts, the city of Roswell, the Chaves County Flood Control District and water and conservation districts.

Due to the new state law and the Elida bond issue, Andrade said, tax bills will be sent out on Dec. 1, due by Dec. 10 and delinquent by Jan. 10. The entities receiving funds will see the bulk of the money in December and January.

Protest periods are also affected, Andrade said.

She and Assessor Sandra Stewart, whose office must certify county tax rates before the Treasurer’s Office can begin billing and collections, added that they looked into options about certifying rates and sending out bills on the regular schedule to the owners of property outside the Elida district, but determined that they could not do so for several reasons, including that their software systems are not able to accommodate that.

“The only way I can go back in and make changes (to certified tax rates) is if Charlotte refuses it,” said Stewart. “Once she has accepted it and it has gone to the company that prepares those tax bills, we are kind of on a road where we can’t turn around. I want you to know we have spent a long time researching it. … From my side, there doesn’t appear to be anything that we can do except be ready when those rates are official.”

Andrade said the same issue will arise again in 2022 and 2023, when Dexter and Lake Arthur school districts are expected to have bond issues.

County treasurers in the state might ask the New Mexico Legislature to fix the issue, however.

“That’s one of things that we may address at our legislative session, our treasurers’ affiliate (of the New Mexico Counties association), as we go forward into January,” she said.

She said some other counties encountered the bond issue problem during the local elections of 2019 and her office has consulted with them about how to proceed.

According to a resolution signed by Elida school district board officers on July 13, the district is asking voters to decide whether to raise property taxes by $2 for each $1,000 of net taxable valuation from 2021 to 2025 to enable the district to raise money for educational technology purchases and building improvements.

Andrade said that she plans to notify taxpayers at county events and with notices in the news media.

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

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.