The growth in property values continues a multi-year trend that has seen the total value more than double since 2005. The total value of San Juan County properties, released by Assessor Howard Randall on May 30, is $1,078,458,569.
The vast majority of growth, $91 million, is from centrally assessed properties, including massive oil and gas fields, mining operations and other industrial assets. The top 14 properties account for more than 62 percent of the total property value in the county (see the chart on page 2).
Property values in local communities have also grown. The total value of properties in Monticello exceed $69 million, while the total value of properties in Blanding exceed $88 million. That represents less than a one percent increase over one year in Monticello and nearly a ten percent increase in Blanding.
A large portion of the increase in Blanding is due to a reassessment of local commercial properties, mostly “Main Street” businesses. In 2012, Randall led the first reassessment of commercial properties in many years. The impact was dramatic in Blanding and at the Gouldings properties at Monument Valley.
Much of the growth in Blanding is due to reassessment and not to new growth. Since any increase in value due to reassessment is offset by adjustments to the “certified rate”, it is anticipated that the tax rate will drop significantly in Blanding.
The impact of reassessment is smaller in the county. According to County Clerk Norman Johnson, if the certified rate is adopted by the county and the school district, the tax rates would drop approximately two percent.
The certified rate is the rate that would result in the same revenue as the prior year. New growth is not factored into the certified rate, meaning total property tax collections can increase as a result of new growth, even while rates stay the same or are lower.
Increased property values means a growing tax base and has also fueled a controversy. In general, taxing entities generally have kept rates level by adopting the certified rate but have increased their revenues as the value of new properties grow.
San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman has vowed to cut expenditures and tax rates. If the county were to absorb the growth in property values this year and keep property tax collections the same as 2011, Johnson estimates the tax rate for the county would drop by 18 percent.
While breaking the $1 billion barrier is evidence of significant growth in recent years, the value of properties last exceeded $1 billion 30 years ago, in 1982. Driven by the high value of uranium, oil and gas properties, San Juan County had one of the highest valuations in the state.
However, the value began a steady fall over the subsequent 20 years. In the late 1990s, values dropped below $400 million. In 2005, property values began a steady multi-year growth, from $441 million in 2005 to $1.078 billion in 2012.
Discounting for inflation, the current property value of $1.078 billion is worth approximately $462 million in 1982 dollars. As a result, although the tax base has returned to the 1982 levels, the buying power of that base is less than half of the previous value.