Tax districts wait for real estate rebound

Mancos, Dolores entities face declining revenues, lower property assessments

While Kinder Morgan's development of CO2 had a positive impact on 2013 property tax revenue across the county, the impact on small tax districts has created some disparity. A few fire districts have had windfalls, while other fire districts, libraries and schools are waiting on the real estate market to help boost falling revenues.

In 2013, total tax revenue collection rose to 33.39 million from 32.57 million, an increase of about 3 percent. But some entities, including the town of the Dolores, fire districts, school districts and library districts in Mancos and Dolores saw a decline in revenue.

These small districts felt the built-in delay in calculating property values, said County Assessor Scott Davis. The 2013 values were derived from property sales that took place from Jan. 1, 2011, through June 30, 2012

Next year, the property values will be based on sales from Jan. 1, 2013, through mid-June 2014. Davis explained county assessors rely on market indicators to guide their evaluation.

"We don't value property, we report what the public is valuing property at. If they pay more for property, the values go up," Davis said.

But he is hopeful values are on the uptick and recent market trends reflect a rise in Dolores and Mancos markets.

Homes sales during the second quarter from April through June this year showed an average that may help these small tax districts. The average home-sale price countywide increased from about $165,000 in 2013 to about $186,000 in 2014 for the same three-month period.

The Mancos area got a boost, with the average second-quarter sale price rising from about $188,000 to about $250,000, and the Dolores area saw an increase in average prices from $209,000 to $219,000.

Small tax districts in Mancos and Dolores rely on these trends, and a healthy housing market could help make up for recent declines in revenue from 2012 to 2013.

The Mancos Fire Department saw a decline from about $237,000 to about $218,000, a decrease of about 7 percent. The Dolores Fire Department had a decrease from about $336,000 to about $307,000, or about 9 percent.

But the Lewis-Arriola and the Pleasant View fire districts saw substantial increases because they are closer to Kinder Morgan. The Lewis-Arriola Fire District budget increased 75 percent, from about $396,000 to $693,000 in 2013. Pleasant View saw an increase of about 13 percent from $633,000 to $720,000.

Pleasant View Fire Chief Jeff Yoder said that increased revenue in recent years has bought five new vehicles, helped remodel facilities and gone toward the pension program for firefighters.

Before Kinder Morgan development boosted their revenues, the district was considering asking for a tax increase.

"We were financially at the bottom list, as far as tax revenue " Yoder said.

But the district is also trying to manage the windfall wisely in case Kinder Morgan decides to leave the area ahead of schedule, Yoder said.

Library districts in Mancos and Dolores saw declines comparable to the fire districts.

The Mancos Public Library's property tax revenue declined about 8 percent from about $310,000 from $285,000 in 2013. While the Dolores library tax revenue declined about 22 percent, from $296,000 to $230,000.

Both school districts also saw a decline between 2012 to 2013 property tax revenues. Dolores saw a decline from $2.2 million to $1.96 million or about 11 percent. Mancos saw a decline from about $1.14 million to $1.08 million, or about 5 percent. However, schools receive Colorado Department of Education funds to offset falling revenues, and both school districts project an increase in revenue in their recently approved budgets.