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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Clovis Tax Assessment Meeting Sets Tone for Progress on Issue, Leader Says

LAS CRUCES - The constructive tone of a recent tax assessment meeting in Clovis that drew hundreds of farmers and ranchers bodes well for a working group that will reexamine the issue and make recommendations to the state, said the leader of the agency contracted to recalculate assessments for the first time in nearly 30 years.

Jerry Schickedanz, dean of the College of Agriculture and Home Economics at New Mexico State University, said he was pleased by the turnout and participation at the Jan. 9 meeting. Participants nearly filled the lower level of Marshall Junior High auditorium, which seats 1,000.

Schickedanz helped form a working group to review the tax assessment formula following a one-year delay in new farm and ranch tax assessments from the state Taxation and Revenue department's Property Tax Division.

"We have the opportunity to establish a fair and equitable assessment formula," Schickedanz said. "The working group will include representatives from all facets of the agricultural industry as well as lending institutions, the College of Agriculture and Home Economics, New Mexico Department of Agriculture and state Taxation and Revenue."

The group's mission is to develop recommendations for state regulations by Oct. 1 to allow ample time for review and input before implementation, he said.

Under contract with the department, the college had been working with Taxation and Revenue on new farm and ranch assessments. The proposed assessments drew strong criticism from farmers and ranchers at Taxation and Revenue meetings.

"Controversial issues are nothing new for the college," Schickedanz said. "Our faculty have been involved in determining updates on state grazing fees and other state policy matters. I believe we should be helping the people of New Mexico solve their problems, and that involves contentious issues."

Jim Libbin, an NMSU agricultural economics professor, made calculations based on the income method of valuation, which is based on income derived from the use of land for agricultural purposes. Though state regulations provide more than one way to make calculations, some of the numbers to be used are dictated by tax regulations, Schickedanz said.

For example, current regulations dictate that the rangeland value is set using a single number to represent an "average" cattle ranch statewide. That average does not distinguish between a cattle ranch and sheep ranch or between private and public land, Schickedanz said. It also does not take into account statewide variations in the land's productivity for grazing, he said.

"Obviously, there are some problems with making the calculations," Schickedanz said. "The assessments have not been looked at for a long time, and they should be. State law appears to be adequate. The problem is with the implementation of the law? in the state regulations and how they will be carried out."

The working group, which was established Dec. 21, is finalizing the nomination method for representatives from commodity groups and other agencies, Schickedanz said. Members will include four NMSU agricultural economists? Jim Libbin, Allen Torell, John Fowler and Jerry Hawkes? plus Jeff Witte, assistant director of the New Mexico Department of Agriculture.