County board to hear concern on Henderson revaluation
The Grand County Board of Commissioners’ decision last month to change the tax valuation of the Henderson Mine and Mill took many by surprise.
The board discussed the revaluation during an executive session at its March 15 meeting and approved the revaluation, from a five-year average of the mine’s production to a three-year average, during a special meeting the next day.
Now, one Grand County citizen contends that mine-owner Freeport McMoRan violated state statutes in putting forth the request to change the valuation.
The board will hear concerns from Peter Ralph during its meeting on Tuesday afternoon, April 19.
One of Ralph’s primary assertions is that Freeport McMoRan did not submit its request for revaluation in time.
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In Colorado, the owner of a producing mine must submit any request for revaluation to the board of county commissioners at least forty-five days prior to the date of its annual production report to that county, which by law must be no later than April 15.
That sets the last possible day to submit a request for revaluation as March 1.
The board must then make a decision on the request at least 30 days prior to the reporting date, which would have been March 16.
Freeport McMoRan filed its initial request for a three-year average valuation on November 3, 2015, said County Assessor Tom Weydert.
The mining giant made another request on February 26, this time amending its request to an annual valuation.
Weydert said his office is not allowed to share information on Henderson’s production with the board of commissioners until the commissioners sign a non-disclosure agreement, which they did on March 11.
Ralph contends that the request that the board approved, for a three-year average, was filed on March 15, well after the March 1 deadline.
Weydert said that whether the original request, filed well before the statutory deadline, still stood after Freeport McMoRan made its amended request in February was a legal question he could not answer, though personally be believed the original request was still valid.
In documents submitted to the county, Ralph is also highly critical of the county’s handling of the matter, specifically waiting until the last possible day to make a decision on the revaluation.
According to Colorado statutes, if a board of commissioners does not make a decision on a revaluation request at least 30 days prior to April 15, then the request is automatically approved.
In this case, the commissioners made their decision on the last possible day.
“Everywhere I looked, I started finding problems with the way it’s being dealt with,” Ralph said of the revaluation.
Weydert agreed that the county hadn’t handled the revaluation well.
“Whatever the decision is, nobody likes it,” Weydert said. “Whether it’s three years or five years or one year, the production is going down. Everybody knows that. So my biggest concern is that the county took so long in responding, both internally and letting the community know.”
County Attorney Alan Hassler said he could not comment on the matter because he had not been instructed by the board of commissioners to do so.
Question of conflicting counties
Clear Creek County, where the mine operates, denied Freeport McMoRan’s request for a revaluation in March, a decision that Ralph contents nullifies Grand County’s approval.
Colorado statutes state that a mine owner can’t change their tax valuation “until the board of county commissioners for every county in which the mine is located authorizes the use of the alternate method.”
However, Henderson already uses different valuation methods in Clear Creek and Grand counties – Clear Creek assesses the mine on a ten-year production average.
But Ralph maintained that Grand County’s board acted outside of its authority it approving the request.
“The way I look at it is this – that vote either has to be formally vacated or they need to make an attempt to ratify it,” Ralph said. “I don’t think they can ratify it because their decisions is outside the reporting period.”
Ralph said he felt that, because of his opinion that the board acted outside its authority in approving the revaluation, its actions had put individual members at risk of being sued by organizations that may lose substantial revenue from the revaluation.
A spokesman for Freeport McMoRan did not return a request for comment as of press time.
Related Story: Owner: Henderson value “overstated” after production cuts
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