County treasurer takes property tax delinquencies personally

........................................................................................................................................................................................

Across Valencia County, more than 200 business properties owe upwards of $1.5 million in back property taxes.

Across Valencia County, more than 200 business properties owe upwards of $1.5 million in back property taxes.

Dorothy Lovato Valencia County Treasurer

When you stop to consider that there are thousands of business licenses issued every year in local municipalities and in the county and, as of December, the delinquencies for tax years 2003 through 2011, countywide, amounted to nearly $8 million, those numbers might not seem too bad at all.

But “not bad” isn’t what the county treasurer wants to see.

While she understands times are hard, Valencia County Treasurer Dorothy Lovato has a difficult time not taking the delinquencies personally.

During her 10 years as chief deputy treasurer, and now in her second term as treasurer, Lovato says when money is short, the first people to suffer in any government organization are the employees.

“Since I’ve been here, twice we’ve had to go on reduced hours. Those missing days really hurt people,” Lovato said.

At one point, more than a decade ago, the county reduced hourly workers to 32 hours a week, shorting them one pay day a week. And it isn’t just employees who go lacking – it’s everyone.

The treasurer’s department currently mails out more than 209,000 property tax bills every year.

The funds collected by the department are disbursed to the state of New Mexico, the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, University of New Mexico-Valencia Campus, village of Los Lunas, village of Bosque Farms, city of Belen, Los Lunas Schools and the Belen Consolidated School District.

The town of Peralta has not imposed an additional property tax on its residents, so it receives no property taxes, according to town clerk Julie Pluemer.

So when tax bills go unpaid by any property owner, all the people who want a piece of the pie get a smaller slice, Lovato said.

“Everyone loses out. Everyone expects services – police, fire – and services can’t be provided well with no money,” she said. “And the money we get only goes so far.”

For instance, in the 2012 tax year, if the top 10 delinquent accounts had been paid just for that year, Los Lunas Schools would have collected about $25,000 and Belen Schools, $3,200.

When property owners with multiple businesses, multiple properties don’t pay, Lovato says that is a huge disappointment.

“You know who I really admire? The seniors. When those bills go out, they are the first ones at the window,” she said. “Because their home is all they have.”


-- Email the author at jdendinger@news-bulletin.com.