Change is ee expensive

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By Katy Korkos

Tax inequity is the issue that most concerns local Realtor Tracy Langford, who feels that the property tax legislation enacted in New Mexico in 1997, 2001 and 2004 has combined to create a system in which homebuyers are penalized for changing residences.

Langford purchased her home in 2005, only to see her assessed value increase 331 percent at the time of transfer.

“My property taxes are more than three times higher than the previous property owners, with no extra benefits,” Langford said, who serves on the legislative committee for the Santa Fe-based Realtors Association of New Mexico. The committee is working to assure that property tax legislation is not unfairly applied across the state.

Legislation passed in 2005 added a provision to the property tax code requiring that sales prices for property that has changed hands be disclosed to tax assessors, and disclosed value is now being used as the assessed value by county tax assessors throughout the state.

In the upcoming legislative session, which begins Jan. 15, Langford would like to see an amendment “that would roll back valuations to the 2001 levels, with a sunset provision allowing us to have time to rewrite the tax code.” Langford brought that proposal before a subcommittee of the New Mexico Legislature in Santa Fe in early November, and said that many legislators and senators didn’t realize it was happening.

Ideally, Langford would like to see tax valuation based purely on square footage, which she sees as the best indicator of how many services are consumed by the occupants of the property.

She proposes a simple formula for each county to determine tax valuation, where each county’s budget would be divided by the square footage of property in the county to determine the mill levy. A mill is one-tenth of one cent, and the mill levy is the number of dollars a taxpayer must pay for every $1,000 of assessed value.

“People who have suffered should contact their local representative,” Langford said.

Chief Appraiser Joaquin Valdez said that office has not seen a significant increase in protests this year due to the disclosure provision.

“There have been a few more protests due to the local economy,” Valdez said, as home prices have stayed flat or decreased rather than risen by the 3 percent allowable by law.’

Property taxes in Los Alamos are used for county operations such as roads, fire protection and police protection, as well as to pay state and schools debt.

According to the Washington-based Tax Foundation, New Mexicans pay an average of $448 in property taxes, which places New Mexico 48th in the nation in the amount of property taxes paid. New Jersey ranks first, with $2,206. Only Arkansans and Alabamians pay less, with $422 and $394 respectively.

Property taxes were due Nov. 10, and become delinquent Dec. 10. The assessor’s office can be reached at 662-8030