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An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988

SC Civitan Club

—Leslie Morrison

The Sandoval County Civitan Club will host an open house for anyone interested in learning about Civitan. Civitan is an organization of volunteers dedicated to helping people in Sandoval County. Civitan helps wherever needs arise—from collecting food for local food pantries, to volunteering at community events, to building playgrounds for children.

“The Sandoval County Civitan Club helps many local nonprofits, including Abrazos Family Support Services, Haven House, and PB & J Family Services,” said Leslie Morrison, President of the Sandoval County Civitan Club.

The Open House will be held on April 10, starting at 6:00 p.m., at the Fairwinds Retirement Community, located at 920 Riverview Drive SE, Rio Rancho. Dinner will be provided and Jim Stanek, co-founder and spokesperson for Paws and Stripes will be the guest speaker. Paws and Stripes is a local nonprofit that provides service dogs for military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

County Treasurer hails “broad, bipartisan support” for passage of Bill

—Sidney Hill

Sandoval County Treasurer Laura M. Montoya says the state legislature has acted to close a property tax loophole that was benefitting large, out-of- state developers at the expense of average New Mexico property owners.

The loophole fix is contained in Senate Bill 406, which was passed during the recently completed legislative session. The bill was sponsored by Sen. John Sapien, who represents a large portion of southern Sandoval County, including Corrales, Bernalillo, and Placitas.

The bill would change the way tax payments are handled when property owners either divide or combine land parcels. Governor Susana Martinez must sign the bill before it becomes law.

Under current law, property owners pay annual taxes on their property holdings in two installments. The first payment is due in November of the year in which the tax is levied. The second payment is then due in May of the following year. For example, property owners should have paid the first half of their 2012 taxes this past November 10 through December 10, and they are expected to pay the remaining 2012 taxes on or before April 10 to May 10 of 2013.

If, however, a property owner divides or combines land parcels after making the November payment, but before the May deadline, they can evade that second-half payment, as well as the full payment for the tax year in which they are combining or dividing. It takes three years for a property to be placed on the delinquent tax rolls maintained by the state Taxation and Revenue Department, and by that time, the parcel identifier on the original piece of property no longer exists.

Senate Bill 406 requires property owners to pay all taxes due as of the date they divide or combine property upfront. In some cases, that would mean making a payment for the second half of a previous year and all of the current year.

“Large developers, most of them from out-of-state, discovered this loophole, and they’ve been exploiting it for years,” says Montoya, who was elected Sandoval County Treasurer in November 2012. “My staff pointed this out to me soon after I took office. I saw it as a fairness issue. If the average owner of a single-family home—or a small lot—has to pay the full amount of property taxes every year, large out-of-state developers should have to do the same.”

This loophole also causes Sandoval County to lose a sizeable amount of tax revenue each year, which Montoya also sees as placing an unfair burden on the average county property owner. “In years in which the economy is slow, the county loses $150,000 to $500,000 in revenue because of this loophole,” Montoya declares. “In booming years, that figure could be as high as $500,000 to $1,000,000.”

Upon learning about the loophole, Montoya immediately set out to gain legislative support for a potential fix. She had little trouble getting Sen. Sapien to carry the bill on the Senate side of the Legislature. She also secured two sponsors—Representatives Bill Rehm and Ed Sandoval of Bernalillo County—to carry a companion bill in the House. Sandoval’s support was particularly fortuitous because he chairs the Taxation and Revenue Committee.

Montoya didn’t stop there in seeking support. At her urging, the Sandoval County Commission voiced unanimous support for the bill, as did 22 of the 32 county treasurers, the Assessor’s Affiliate, of the New Mexico Association of Counties, and every member of the Sandoval County legislative delegation. “This broad and bipartisan support from elected officials really helped in getting this legislation passed,” Montoya says.

The Senate version of the bill was first to make its way through both houses of the legislature and onto the governor’s desk. The governor has until April 5 to sign the bill, and Montoya is hopeful about its chances for this final approval.

“Closure of this loophole will allow counties to have uniformity statewide, clean up tax rolls, and increase county revenues,” Montoya says. “This was a great team effort displayed statewide, and I am thankful for the leadership presented throughout the legislative process.”
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