A series of errors and omissions came to light recently as Pecos County faced a shortfall of $350,0000 in projected tax revenues.
In 2001, a tax abatement was granted to Desert Sky Wind Farms for phases one and two of the operation. The first phase contained 17 wind turbines, and the second contained the remaining 90 wind turbines.
The abatement on the first phase ended December 31, 2005, which meant those turbines, could be taxed beginning January 1. 2006, and those tax dollars would be available for the 2007 budget.
The abatement on Phase II would continue until December 31, 2006, which means the turbines would come on the tax rolls January 1, 2007, and those tax dollars would be available for the 2008 budget.
The abatement agreement affected only Pecos County property taxes, and was made by the Commissioners Court in 2000 and 2001.
To add to the mix, the wind turbines belonged to the beleaguered Enron. When the dust settled, the turbines belonged to American Electric Power, or AEP.
Then came local elections, new court members, a new chief appraiser, and some lost files.
In May 2006, Sam Calderon, Chief Appraiser for Pecos County, sent a notice to AEP showing the appraised value of the turbines at $996,717,000. Calderon was not aware that the project had been done in two phases, and that only the first 17 turbines would come on the tax rolls this year.
When the appraisal notice reached AEP, no one there noticed the error, so the evaluations were not protested in a timely manner.
In October, Tax Assessor /Collector, Santa Acosta, using the appraisal sent out by Calderon, sent AEP a tax bill for the entire group of turbines. Pecos County’s share of that taxable amount was $463,815.
Only did then AEP contact Pecos County, letting them know about the error. After conversations between Calderon and AEP officials, Calderon consulted with Danny Hendrix, Thomas Y. Picket & Co., Inc. who does appraisals on minerals for the Appraisal District.
In an email from Hendrix, he explained that only “$13,492,800 of the $84,330,000 final 2006 value should be out of abatement.” Hendrix continued, “That would leave a value of $70,837,200 in abatement for tax year 2006.”
The budget prepared by the county for fiscal year 2007 counted on the income on the entire amount, instead of just the value of phase one. When the county was made aware of the problem, they realized that there would be a shortfall of approximately $350,000 in taxes collected by the county.
The county budget revenue expected just from ad valorem taxes is $18.8 million. ($350,000 is less than two percent of $18.8 million.)
According to Judge Shuster, “Some judicious juggling by myself and the commissioners will allow the Pecos County to meet its obligations this year, in spite of this unexpected shortfall.”
By Sharon Roosevelt
Pioneer Staff Writer
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