Resident has heated exchange with county over Henderson mill revaluation
A heated discussion of Grand County’s decision to change the tax valuation process for Henderson Mill and Mine, which included potential legal threats, ended inconclusively Tuesday as county officials continued to defend the action as legal and valid. Local citizen Peter Ralph maintained his belief, however, that the commissioners acted inappropriately.
Ralph addressed the Grand County Board of Commissioners during its regular meeting Tuesday to highlight his concerns and complaints regarding the county’s decision to allow Henderson Mill and Mine to change the complex’s tax valuation process as it relates to the production of molybdenum.
Henderson Mill and Mine pays taxes in three separate broad categories: real property and personal property taxes, similar to all other for-profit businesses, and taxes on the production of molybdenum. In 2017, Henderson paid a little over $2.5 million in taxes to Grand County in all categories combined.
Production based taxes are common for businesses that specialize in resource extraction with businesses such as sand and gravel pits also paying taxes based on production figures. Production based taxes rely on an averaging system to determine a given business’ tax bill. The averaging can be based off of one-, three-, five- or 10-year production averages.
In 2016, the county board approved a request from Henderson to change the averaging time period from a five-year average to a three-year average. The resulting change lowered Henderson’s total tax bill in 2017 and 2018 from what Henderson would have paid had the averaging change not been approved.
Had the change not been approved, Grand County would have received an additional $594,034 in tax revenue from Henderson in 2017 and an additional $424,922 in 2018, according to figures provided by County Assessor Tom Weydert.
Ralph, who expressed vehement opposition to the change in valuation back in 2016, alleged Tuesday that the board took illegal actions both in agreeing to the revaluation and the process that led to its approval. Ralph specifically highlighted his belief that the board violated the Colorado Open Records Act as well as Colorado’s Sunshine Laws regarding open and public meetings.
The nearly two-hour long discussion between Ralph, the county and its newly appointed county attorney, Robert Franek, involved a tense series of back-and-forth debates, challenges and objections as Ralph made statements the commissioners contended were inaccurate or baseless.
Franek defended the board’s action in 2016 as valid and legal.
“I don’t think the county has done anything illegal in this entire situation and I will defend them to the end (in court),” he told Ralph.
As the discussion drew to a close, Ralph expressed his continued belief that the county is in the wrong as it relates to the Henderson revaluation process.
“You have given me very little choice,” Ralph said. “Basically you are telling me to go and take legal action. You know I can’t afford that.”
The meeting closed with Franek telling Ralph he believed the discussion was over.
“I am very disappointed,” Ralph commented as he gathered his belonging and left the commissioner’s chambers.
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