County Commission address personal property taxes, Sage-grouse at latest meeting

by David Boyle
News Director
Members of the San Juan County Commission addressed personal property taxes, Gunnison Sage-grouse and short-term rentals in Spanish Valley at their latest meeting.
Members of the commission approved the use of an appraisal software program for the Assessor’s office at the January 16 meeting.
County Assessor Rick Meyer explained the contract is with the Multi-County Appraisal Trust Software, to run the software. The software is required by the state to unify appraisal software. Meyer reports the upgraded software should also cost the county less to use. The previous county appraisal software was a flat $14,000 yearly fee while the new software should cost $2 an hour per use, even if the county were to spend 2,000 hours on it that’d still only total $4,000.
At the meeting, the commission also made decisions on a few items related to personal property taxes.
Deputy Assessor Randy Rarick explained that previously the office had not used a collect previous years button, which meant that uncollected personal property taxes from previous years were not being rolled together year over year.
With a state statute preventing the collection of personal property taxes over eight years, the commission approved waiving the collection of the $13,326 unpaid personal property taxes from 2009 to 2014. The commission also approved waiving of unpaid personal property taxes from 2015-2019 totaling $21,197. While Rarick explained taxes between four and eight years could be collected by the county it would require a judge’s decree. After receiving a decree the county would then be able to garnish wages, or seize property to recover those unpaid taxes. County staff expressed that seizing property, particularly trailer homes may end up being a loss for the county if a mobile home didn’t sell the county ownership would require them to continue to pay for lot rents or disposal of the home.
County attorney Mitch Maughan explained that personal property taxes are different from real property taxes.
“You don't really have too big a problem with real property taxes because if you don’t pay them it automatically goes to sale without you doing anything basically. Then you foreclose on them and you're ahead on the mortgage on anything like that. The real property taxes take care of themselves.”
While the county believes they’d be able to get the judge decree there still would be the effort to collect. Commissioner Sylvia Stubbs noted the Assessors office only has two people on staff.
“You may go try to make pennies over here, and you’re losing dollars over here, and the same thing with (Mr. Maughan) we’re stretched with attornies. It’s a cost of time and the cost of neglecting other things to generate money for sure.”
Meyer added they’ve sent plenty of letters to those unpaid, even noting that some of the outstanding owners are dead.
Members of the commission approved the waiving of uncollected personal property taxes for debts four years and older.
Commissioner Bruce Adams asked how the office would make sure the issue didn’t happen again.
Rarrick explained the county can roll delinquent taxes over into the next year, and that the county won’t close out the books on 2023 until that has been done. Staff also shared they’ll continue to send letters and make field visits to follow-up on the issue.
At the meeting the commission also gave the Assessor office the ability to address overpayment on personal property from 2009 through 2023. A total of $16,784 was over-collected from 2009 to 2023.
While crediting accounts of those who have overpaid would be seen as the easiest way to address most of the overpayments, members of the Assessors office said that could create a nightmare for the Treasurer’s office.
Additionally, not all of the taxes collected went to the county but rather to the school district, special service districts or other places as well.
One possibility for the county would be to cut a check to each account that overpaid, although many accounts are owed a small amount over twenty are owed less than $10.
Rarrick shared that a newly created overpayment report will help the county to automatically credit an account for the next year.
The commission gave consent for the office to continue to look for the most effective solution for the outstanding overcollection.
The commission also approved a refund of paid personal property taxes by the lessee of the Needles Outpost. The motion by the commission also required the Nature Conservancy who became the owner of the property in 2020 to pay those taxes rather than the lessee who runs the outpost on the Conservancy’s property.
Members of the commission also approved a comment letter to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) regarding the draft Resource Management Plan Amendment/Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Gunnison Sage-grouse.
The draft document is a continuation of work that has gone on for the past decade to address the designation of the bird as a threatened species. The Gunnison Sage-grouse habitat is identified as mostly near Gunnison Colorado stretching into western colorado and a section
identified in San Juan County mostly east of Monticello.
The EIS includes five alternatives, including Alternative D which has been identified as the preferred alternative.
San Juan County Public Lands Coordinator Nick Sandberg shared the draft letter with the commission with comments mostly related to Alternative D.
Alternative D does not identify any Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) in San Juan County which the county states in its letter is their preference, the county also generally agreed with Alternative D’s draft plan related to livestock grazing, travel management, and predation. The county did express some concerns about the impact of the plan on mineral and energy development in the area.
Commissioners unanimously approved the comment letter with Commissioner Adams adding comments that the Gunnison Sage-grouse is doing much better in Gunnison Colorado.
“It perplexes me because the federal government continues to push this whole idea of habitat when in actuality there is no birds. They claim the habitat is there, it is not a coincidence that habitat exists mostly on private property which we have very little of in San Juan County.”
Sandberg also presented a letter to the commission asking that the BLM and the US Forest Service hold another meeting with cooperating agencies ahead of the public release of the draft of the Bears Ears Management Plan. The county understands that the draft publication was originally scheduled for November and has been delayed. The county hopes that cooperating agencies will be able to see and provide feedback on any possible changes made since their previous meeting in November.
The commission unanimously approved to send the letter with the request.
Members of the commission also approved a Utah Division of Outdoor Recreational Trails Matching Fund grant. County Economic Development Director Elaine Gizler explained the $150,000 phase one project partners the state, Grand County Active Trails and Transportation, BLM, and San Juan County to create phase 1 of the Mud Springs/Spanish Hills Trails network in northern San Juan County. The trail will serve adaptive mountain bikes and Class 1 e-bikes. The county match is 20-percent or $30,000 from the Economic Development and Visitor Service budget split over two years.
Members of the commission also approved a resolution clarifying that short-term rentals are prohibited in the Spanish Valley Residential District.
The commission also approved budgeted updates to the weather system and beacon at Cal Black Airport, with the Federal and state governments picking up all but $16,000 of the $350,000 project.
The commission also approved an agreement to change software for the county business licenses, building permits, and planning documents. County Administrator Mack McDonald says the software should be more efficient than the current software, with an interface that allows the public to track the progress of their project.

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