Bernalillo County reviewing taxes on unproductive farms

Posted at: 04/08/2014 6:19 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Higher property tax bills are on the way for about 500 Bernalillo County “farmers” who haven’t grown crops or raised live stock in a long, long time. The county tax assessor is about halfway through a county-wide review of a tax break for farmers.

It doesn’t take much to get a farm on the tax books in New Mexico, and keep it there for years. We found one North Valley property that is classified as a farm, despite the fact that not even grass is growing there. It used to have an irrigation ditch, but it appears to have been un-used for decades. It’s one of the properties that is going from farm status to something else with a higher tax bill – residential, most likely. There are more than 500 of them so far, and many of them are easy to spot, said Deputy Assessor Damian Lara.

“For example, it’s gone from a field of alfalfa to a residence,” Lara said. “They’ve actually built something on that, whether it’s a home, or a tennis court, or a swimming pool. That’s the most clear cut.”

Some farms are being reduced in size on the tax books, Lara said. For example, a two acre alfalfa field that now has a house and garage and lawn on one acre will now the be listed as a one acre farm – if it’s still being farmed.

Two analysts are working their way through the Valley right now, and will soon head into other parts of the county where property owners are claiming farm status.

“If we’re all paying our fair share, then we’ll all pay a little less,” Lara said.

There are 4,205 properties listed as farms in Bernalillo County. Lara said there is no pricetag yet on how much the county will make by eliminating or reducing the non-farms. Property owners will have time to file a protest over the findings – and start growing something if they want to keep their farm status.