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Monday, July 16, 2001

Valuation totals for area stay up, future uncertain

Staff Writer

PECOS, Monday, July 16, 2001 -- Valuations for local taxing entitles came down slightly from their  initial estimates by Reeves County Chief Appraiser Carol King Markham,  but the numbers she certified on Thursday for 2001 remain well  above last year's numbers for several local taxing entities. But recent declines  in oil and natural gas prices could send them back down again in 2002.

Reeves County's valuations are up by over $122 million, the Reeves County Hospital District saw their valuations jump by over $130 million and the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD's valuations climbed by nearly $140 million, according to figures approved by Markham last week, following the annual Appraisal Review Board hearings in late June.

Reeves County's valuations were put at $478,484,950, while the Reeves County Hospital District's total was $486,577,070 and the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD had $508,442,350 in valuations from lands in Reeves and Ward County that are part of the school district.

Following the appraisal review hearings, Markham decrease real estate valuations within the P-B-T boundaries by about $600,000 from the initial estimates, while mineral valuations were lowered by $9 million from the numbers released in May. Mineral valuations for Reeves County and the hospital district were also lowered by about $9 million, and the real estate valuations were lowered by $1.2 million following the hearings before the review board.

Mineral valuations increases were also reported for the Balmorhea ISD and Reeves County Water Improvement District No. 2, which serves the Balmorhea area, but both were far smaller than those for the county, hospital or P-B-T ISD. Both saw their mineral valuations rise by just over $7 million, which for Balmorhea ISD helped offset a loss of over $1 million in property valuations.

The increases are based almost entirely on higher oil and gas prices during the past year _ a trend that has shown signs of reversing itself in the past six weeks. Gas prices, which were hovering around the $1.60 mark in May, when Markham released her initial appraisal totals, have dropped down to $1.20 at some stores in Pecos, while crude oil prices are down by about $2 a barrel in the past two months and natural gas prices have fallen by two thirds since the start of the year.

Estimates on the number of rigs that will be active in the Permian Basin in 2002 also have been lowered in recent weeks, and all that could mean a sharp drop mineral valuations next year, which would translate into a drop in tax revenues based on the area's current tax rates.

The Town of Pecos City and the city of Balmorhea, which did not benefit from the mineral valuation increases, saw their total valuations for 2001 decline. Balmorhea lost $47,110 in valuations, while Pecos was down by more than $2.6 million, but that was mainly due to a $9.15 million abetment given to Anchor Foods for expansion of its Pecos facility. Reeves County also granted the abatement, while the hospital district approved a $1.05 million abatement for the company, which is Reeves County's largest employer.

Markham put total taxable valuations for Pecos at $113,670,030, and Balmorhea's total was $3,453,010. Toyah did see a slight increase in their mineral valuations, and total taxable property and minerals for the city was $1,683,580, up $257,660 from 2000's totals.

The Balmorhea ISD's taxable valuations were $24,386,700 and RCWID No. 2 was put at $13,431,590.

Because of uncertainty about whether or not the higher valuations will stay in place, officials in late May said they had no plans to may any major changes in their budgets, which will be drawn up over the next three months based on the valuation levels, which help set local property tax rates.

P-B-T Superintendent Don Love said under the "Robin Hood" school funding plan, the State of Texas will take away about $2.2 million in funding in 2002 from Pecos to offset the $2.2 million in tax revenues the school district would get in 2001, based on the current $1.50 tax rate. A decline in mineral valuations could then leave the district with $3 million to $5 million less in funding in 2003.

Love added that the school district would have to raise the same amount of money raised last year in taxes in order to receive the Tier II money, and he said because of the boost in tax revenues resulting from the hike in mineral valuations, the district would face an automatic tax rollback election this year.

"We can't even get it (full state funding) unless we force a rollback election," he said.

A rollback could cut the district's tax rate by about 15 cents per $100 valuation, but Love said that setting this year's tax rate at $1.50 would be ideal, because the state will take back their $2.2 million next year. Under current Texas law, the tax rate could only be raised by six cents the following years, meaning it would be three to four years before the school district could return to the present funding levels if voters approve the rollback.

Love said that whatever money the school district does get during the 2001-2002 school year he would focus the spending on improving the district's facilities and maintenance.

He said that he would like to use the money to fix roofs, replace some air conditioning and whatever needs to be done around the district.

"This is a golden opportunity to really fix up things that need to be fixed up," he said.

"Given the volatility of the products (oil and gas), it's very difficult to make structural changes based on a market that could bottom out," Galindo said. "We'll look to use any windfall to improve the quality of life," so long as they are one-time expenses, he added.

Council OKs seeking water line easements

Staff Writer

PECOS, Monday, July 16, 2001 -- The Town of Pecos City Council approved going forward  with securing needed water rights for the South Worsham Water Field,  during a special meeting on Friday at City Hall.

The council asked City Attorney Scott Johnson to communicate with landowners and request permission to use land to run water lines from the new South Worsham water field to Pecos. The field is located about 25 miles southeast of Pecos.

Johnson informed the Council that he has had trouble reaching all of the area's landowners, but has been able to get most of the needed land.

"We have most of the water rights and most of the easements we need," he said.

Johnson also told the council that the landowners who let the city use their land would not be giving up all their rights.

"Whichever way we go the landowner retains all mineral rights and surface rights except for the areas we need," he said.

The city has been seeking additional water rights and a new water field for the past seven years, since the council was informed the current Worsham and Ward County water fields could only supply Pecos with adequate drinking water supplies through the year 2008. The South Worsham field was chosen over several water field sites studied by engineers hired by the city, and officials hope to begin work on the project in the near future.

The council first met on seeking the water line easements during executive session on Friday and then went into open session.

Low income funds for school supplies offered

PECOS, Monday, July 16, 2001 -- Community Council of Reeves County will begin accepting applications for school supplies for low income families beginning next Monday, July 23.

Clients must pick up applications at 700 W. Daggett St., Suite F.

An appointment will be set up when the completed application is submitted.

Deadline for applications is July 27.


PECOS, Monday, July 16, 2001 -- High Sunday 110. Low this morning 72. Weekend rainfall  at Texas A&M Experiment Station .03 inch. Forecast for tonight:   Mostly clear. Low in the  mid 70s. Southeast wind 5 to 15 mph. Tuesday:   Mostly sunny. High around 102. Southeast wind 5 to 15 mph. Tuesday night:   Mostly clear. Low 70 to 75. Wednesday through sunday:   Partly cloudy. Lows 70 to 75. Highs in the upper 90s to around 100.


Jesse Bush

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