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Election questionnaires: County Assessor

Two Rio Ranchoans, Republican incumbent Tom Garcia and Democrat Antonio Montoya, are vying for the position of Sandoval County assessor.

The assessor’s office determines property values in the county for tax purposes, prepares tax rolls for the county treasuer and sends out notices of valuation to taxpayers.

Garcia, who has 30-plus years of government experience, including stints as an appraiser, deputy assessor and assessor, was elected in 2010. He defeated two people in the primary to win his party’s nomination.

Montoya, a senior appraiser with 15 years of experience with the county assessor’s office, is making his first bid for public office. He was unopposed in the primary election.

Each candidate was asked to provide biographical information and to respond to these questions:

1. What do you consider to be the top two responsibilities of the assessor and how would you fulfill them?

2. What qualities or experiences make you a better candidate to manage the assessor’s office than your opponent?

3. Are you satisfied with the reappraisal process in Sandoval County? If not, what can be done to improve in that area?

4. Do you believe the assessor’s office has done enough to educate the public about how property is evaluated and assessed, as well as other functions of the office? What would you propose?

5. Have you or your business, if you are a business owner, ever been the subject of any state or federal tax liens?

6. Have you ever been involved in a personal or business bankruptcy proceeding?

7. Have you ever been arrested for, or charged with, or convicted of drunken driving or any felony in New Mexico or any other state? If so, please explain.

Tom Garcia.

Tom Garcia.

Tom Garcia

Age: 63

Party affiliation: Republican

Residence: Rio Rancho

Education: 2 1/2 years, University of Texas-El Paso, New Mexico State University.

Occupation: Sandoval County assessor

Family:  Wife Sally and two sons Political/government experience: Political 3 1/2 years; government, 30-plus years.

Major professional accomplishment: Appointment to drector, Property Tax Division; election to assessor.

Major personal accomplishment:  Retirement

Responses to questionnaire:

1. 1) Serve Sandoval county taxpayers and residents by providing uniform and equal assessments in accordance with the New Mexico Property Tax Code; 2) Maintain proper records as required in the property tax code. This is still an ongoing project.

2. In over 30 years of experience, I have served as an appraiser, deputy assessor, assessor, deputy director and director. I believe this demonstrates my extensive managerial and administrative experience. The most experience my opponent has is as an appraiser.

3. No, I believe that as soon as the current reappraisal process is done, a long-term plan to visually inspect every property in the county at least once every five years needs to be put in place. The lack of such a review in the past left the assessor’s database in such disarray. What became of reappraisal funds during prior administrations? Those funds were obviously not used for the intended purpose.

4. The assessor can never do enough to educate the public. In addition to meeting with the public or addressing citizen groups at every opportunity, the assessor should have a public information policy that includes producing brochures, a website with FAQs on the Internet and use other public forums such as public information spots on radio and in local newspapers.

5. No.

6. Yes.

7. No.

Antonio F. Montoya.

Antonio F. Montoya.

Antonio F. Montoya

Age: 38

Party affiliation: Democrat

Residence: Rio Rancho

Education: New Mexico certified appraiser, 13 years.

Occupation: Senior appraiser

Family: Married, two children

Political/government experience: None

Major professional accomplishment: In the last 15 years and during my working career, I have worked hard to provide for my family, being accountable and serving the public with respect and integrity.

Major personal accomplishment: My son graduating from Cleveland High School; my daughter, who is attending Rio Rancho Middle School; and my wife, who is a registered nurse at Rust Presbyterian Medical Center.

Responses to questionnaire:

1. A reappraisal study needs to be conducted, including the 46 percent that was worked on to enter data and raise taxes. The downturn of the housing market, foreclosures, spending of county funds that are not cost effective and the slow economic rebound are all factors for this study. As a full-time assessor, I will be available for taxpayers, schools, business, government agencies, staff and administration.

2. Being available to direct staff with guidance and leadership is critical. I am committed to do that. Being familiar with the urban and rural areas as an appraiser, I set valuations in the areas of: residential, commercial and vacant properties countywide. With prior administrations, I assisted and/or provided reports for budgets, state certifications, analysis for reappraisals, protests and additional responsibilities geared toward policy decision-making.

3. When residential valuations are at 85 percent or higher, reappraisals are not necessary. In the absence of the assessor, the deputy assessor that was not fully certified as an appraiser was in charge of the lead role in reappraisals. The deputy assessor’s brother is a protest tax consultant and they worked hand-in-hand to resolve protest cases. Transparency and avoiding all conflict of interest is my commitment.

4. Yes, improving and updating the assessor’s Internet presence and data availability to the public will continue with helpful tips for taxpayers’ benefits and exemptions, as well as mapping and computer updates as they occur. Current information educating the public will also be mailed out with the notices of valuation annually. Walk-in taxpayers with questions is another option.

5. No.

6. No.

7. Sixteen years ago, I complied with a three-month probation for a concealed weapon charge. I informed the officer that I had the weapon. Dismissed charges from the same arrest are public record.