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Editorial: It’s just wrong to boost property valuations 3% during this pandemic

Yes, under New Mexico statute 7-36-21.2, “Limitation on increases in valuation of residential property,” the state’s taxing entities are absolutely legally entitled to increase the market value of a residential property that has not changed hands up to 3%.

Yes, 2019 closed as “a banner year for New Mexico home sales,” according to a Journal story.

And yes, the coronavirus pandemic has shuttered New Mexico businesses for more than two months and put around 150,000 out of work, meaning the revenue bread and butter of GRT (gross-receipts taxes) is not rolling in, making property tax revenue that much more important to local government bottom lines. But.

But just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Around 150,000 New Mexicans are out of work. Huge job creators like J.C. Penney and Hertz are in financial trouble, and others like Raytheon are simply leaving the state. The stock market has posted its largest drop ever.

Yet according to notices just sent out, Bernalillo County has gone ahead and raised many home valuations by the maximum allowed. And while these numbers were likely crunched well before this crash, it should not have been too late to change them. Here’s a sample of the comments the Journal has received from readers:

“In these tough economic times, there is no relief for the whopper of a property tax bill from Bernalillo County. To add indifference to injury, we are in a major recession, the value of my house is dropping and yet the 2020 Notice of Value increases my property tax by another (3%). Incredulous and inhumane!” And “We just got the tax assessment for next year. Again, the value went up the 3% … the amount keeps compounding up. … Retirees on Social Security have not gotten a 3% increase in years. The COVID-19 epidemic has millions out of work. I think Bernalillo County … needs to reassess this and rescind this increase.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.