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Tuesday, May 22, 2001

Valuations soar for schools, county, RCH

Staff Writer

PECOS, Tuesday, May 22, 2001 -- The continued rise in oil and gas prices over the past year  has translated into major increases in mineral valuations for several  local taxing entities, according to Reeves County Chief Appraiser Carol  King Markham. However, the resumption of a tax abatement for Anchor  West means the overall taxable valuations for the Town of Pecos City are  down for 2001.

Markham sent out notices this week to 32,748 property owners telling them they can appeal their 2001 appraisals next month, during the Appraisal Review Board hearings scheduled for June. But real estate valuations for local taxing entities are mostly down for 2001, while mineral valuations jumped sharply, according to Markham's office.

Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD was the biggest gainer among local taxing entities, thanks to the inclusion of oil and gas fields in the Barstow area of western Ward County. The school district, which saw its valuations rise by $9 million a year ago, saw its mineral valuations jump by over 60 percent this time around, from $246.1 million to $397.8 million, $150.7 million over 2000's supplemental appraisal total.

The increase more than offset the $952,770 loss in real estate valuations recorded for the county by the tax appraiser's office, and left total valuations within the school district's boundaries at $518.4 million.

The net increase of $149.8 million for the school district would translate into an increase of about $2.2 million in tax collections, based on the district's $1.50 tax rate per $100 in valuations.

The Reeves County Hospital District had the next biggest increase. It gained $134.7 million in mineral valuations and $6.1 million in real estate valuations, for a net gain of $140.9 million. Based on the current hospital district tax rate, it would translate into an additional $493,000 in tax collections during the upcoming year, if the valuations reported by Markham remain the same following next month's appraisal review board hearings.

Reeves County also gained $134.7 million in mineral valuations, because it shares the same taxing entity boundaries with the hospital district. Last year, mineral valuations for the county and hospital district were up $3.4 million.

Meanwhile, the county's real estate valuations dropped $1.9 million, leaving the overall net gain at $132.8 million. Included in that loss is the $8.1 million tax abatement given to Anchor West, in connection with the expansion of its plant in Pecos.

Based on the county's current tax rate, the increase would mean an additional $757,000 in tax revenues for the fiscal 2002 budget. Total valuations for Reeves County were put at $489 million by Markham, following the Anchor West abatement, while the hospital districts' net valuations were put at $497.1 million.

Without the land outside the city that the oil and gas is located under, the Town of Pecos City didn't see the same increase in valuations, though mineral valuations on land within the city limits was up $45,550 to $15.4 million. Real estate was valued at $108.3 million before the Anchor abatement, and at $100.2 million after it was taken out.

Total taxable valuations for the city were $115.7 million, a drop of $613,870. Based on the current tax rate, the city will lose about $43,500 in tax revenues during the upcoming fiscal year. Last year, the city gained $3.1 million in valuations, with $2.46 million of that from increased mineral valuations appraisals.

Town of Pecos City was the only local taxing entity to see their valuations fall in 2001. Toyah and Balmorhea both were up slightly according to Markham, while the Balmorhea ISD saw their total taxable valuations jump 25 percent and the Reeves County Water Improvement District No. 2 saw their totals more than double thanks to mineral valuation rises.

Balmorhea ISD gained $7.1 million in valuations on minerals, while losing $1.1 million in real estate valuations with the closing of the Brunswick-Roadmaster bicycle warehouse east of Balmorhea last year. Overall, Balmorhea ISA valuations were up just over $6 million, to $24.4 million this year.

RCWID No. 2 gained $7.3 million in mineral valuations and $31,000 in real estate. The $7.4 million rise gave the water district total valuations of $13.6 million for 2001, according to Markham's office.

Real estate valuations in the city of Balmorhea dipped by $13,390, but mineral valuations rose $16,110 to give the city a net rise of $2,720, to $3.5 million. Toyah lost $30,810 in valuations on appraised real estate, but saw it mineral valuations jump by $277,420. The $246,610 net increase gave the city total valuations of $1.67 million.

The appraisal review board will also hear any complaints about mineral valuations when it meets next month. Markham said the notices being sent out about the review board are not bills, and property owners do not have to pay the amount listed on the form.

After the supplemental appraisal roll is certified following the review board hearings and final decisions, the local taxing entities will be presented with the numbers, which will then be used to determine their budgets and tax rates for the fiscal 2002 year, which begins in October.

Area cities receive grants for water-related projects

Staff Writer

PECOS, Tuesday, May 22, 2001 -- Grant money procured by the Town of Pecos City will be  used towards improving local drainage, study and planning, according to  city manager Carlos Yerena.

"We received $50,000 from TDHC and are excited about receiving the funding," said Yerena, while Balmorhea and Toyah fared even better, as both received $350,000 in grant money.

The grants were part of $57.8 million given out to cities and counties as part of the Texas Community Development Program (TCDP) grants announced by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA).

The 222 grants announced represent biennial funding from TDCP's Community Development Housing Rehabilitation and Planning and Capacity Building funds, as well as annual funding from both the Colonia Construction and Colonia Planning funds.

"We didn't receive as much as some of the neighboring cities, but we plan to put the money to good use," said Yerena.

Yerena said the funds would go towards drainage, study and planning.

TCDP awards cities under 50,000 in population and counties under 200,000 in population federal Community Development Block Grants for public works, housing, planning, and economic development projects. Financial assistance is also available to certain counties for eligible activities in colonias, substandard housing developments in unincorporated areas of the border region typically lacking proper infrastructure. All TCDP projects must primarily benefit low-to moderate-income households in accordance with TDHCA and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requirements.

Yerena said grant money is based on need and that this particular grant was applied for by the former administration. "It was already in the works when I came here, but most of these grants are based on need," said Yerena. "We're just glad we received some funding."

The City of Balmorhea has big plans for their $350,000 grant, according to city officials.

"We're going to use the funding for upgrading the water system, replacing and installing new fire hydrants and we plan to loop all the streets together (water lines)," said city water superintendent Luis Contreras.

He said that the city plans to install a storage tank in Toyahvale as well. "Whatever funding we have left, all these major repairs, we plan to use to upgrade smaller items," said Contreras. "It just depends on how much we have left over after our plans are completed."

Toyah officials were unavailable to comment on the plans for using their $350,000 grant.

"These funds will provide or improve affordable housing and basic public services for thousands of low-income Texans, necessities many of us take too much for granted," said Daisy Stiner, TDHCA Executive Director. "Equally important, these funds can also help smaller cities better plan for their housing and public facilities needs in the future," she said.

Stiner said that because of the isolated nature and low population density of rural communities, public facility improvements are more expensive per capita than for urban and suburban communities. As a result, these communities are often without the financial resources needed to issue bond debt for improvements. "These grants are absolutely vital for Texas' smaller towns with limited funding options," she said.

The Community Development Fund is awarded through a biennial competitive application process and focuses principally on infrastructure needs such as water, wastewater, drainage and road improvements. It is the largest of TCDP's seven funds, accounting for $48.8 million of the $57.8 million in grants announced by the Department.

The Housing Rehabilitation Fund awards grants through a biennial competition for projects rehabilitating existing housing, with a particular emphasis on projects that make existing housing accessible for persons with disabilities. The Planning and Capacity Building Fund, also a biennial funding award, is designed to improve a community by preparing for its future housing and infrastructure needs.

The Colonia Construction and Colonia Planning funds are awarded annually for eligible public facilities and planning activities benefiting low-and moderate-income households living in an unincorporated area of a country located within 150 miles of the Texas-Mexico border.

City working to repair problems at pool

Staff Writer

PECOS, Tuesday, May 22, 2001 -- Town of Pecos City employees are working on repairs and  cleaning at the city's Athletic Pool, located next to Rocket Park, in  preparation for the summer.

Pecos Health and Sanitation Director Armando Gil said that they are currently trying to clean the pool so they can repair the cracks pool floor.

Gil said that they are also going to paint the pool bed and around the pool as well as repairing the pool ladders and lifeguard stands.

"We take every safety precaution," he said.

Gil said that they are trying to get all the repair and cleaning work done in order to open the pool for the summer as soon as possible, though he added that it won't be ready in time for the end of school this Friday, and the upcoming Memorial Day weekend.

"We'll open on Wednesday (May 30), hopefully, if the weather permits," he said.

Gil said that the progress is moving slowly right now because of the recent rain, high winds and the lack of manpower.

Gil said that he is waiting for the city personnel department to hire the lifeguards as well as the manager of the pool.

He said that he wants to make sure the manager that is hired would take full responsibility for the pool and the employees and once the manager is chosen that he will expect a lot from that person.

Gil said that he does not want to bring in a person to manage the pool that has not worked there in the past.

"It'll be somebody that is a lifeguard and has worked there before," he said.

During a previous Town of Pecos City Council meeting, Gil informed the council that this could be the last year that the city would be able to use the pool, He went on to explain today that the problem facing the city involves the Texas Department of Health, which is in the process of changing the guidelines for public swimming pools.

Gil said that once the changes are passed the city would not be able to make on the necessary renovations.

"We won't be able to afford to put in what they want," he said.

Gil said that putting in a new pool tub would cost the city at least $500,000.

He said that City Manager Carlos Yerena is currently looking into some state and federal grants that would help the city with the cost of a new pool. But for now the city is looking forward to opening the Athletic Pool very soon.

Graduation rehearsal starting time moved to 9 a.m. on Friday

PECOS, Tuesday, May 22, 2001 -- Graduation rehearsal this Friday for Pecos High School's Class  of 2001 has been changed from 10 a.m. to 9 a.m. All graduating seniors  and participating parents need to be at Eagle Stadium by 9 a.m. for the  two-hour rehearsal.

The 2001 PHS Graduation Ceremonies will begin at 8 p.m., Friday at the stadium. All graduating seniors need to report to the Eagle field house by 7:30 p.m.

Questions regarding graduation rehearsal or ceremonies may be directed to Sam Armstrong at Pecos High School, 447-7222.

In connection with Friday's graduation rehearsal and ceremony, the track at Eagle Stadium will be closed to the public beginning at 1 p.m., Thursday and continuing through Saturday morning.


High Monday 76. Low this morning 49. Forecast for  tonight: Clear. Low in the mid 50s. South wind 5 to 15 mph. Wednesday:  Mostly sunny and warmer. High in the mid 90s. West wind 5 to 15  mph. Wednesday night: Mostly clear. Low in the upper 50s.  Thursday: Partly cloudy. High in the lower 90s. Friday and Saturday: Partly  cloudy. Lows in the mid to upper 50s. Highs in the mid to upper 80s.

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