After reading the Taos News endorsement of Darlene Vigil for Taos County Commission District 3 in last weeks issue, I find it necessary to cite three other points from her time as Taos County Assessor.
First, during Ms. Vigils tenure as Taos County Assessor, she chose to enforce a law that has long been part of New Mexico Statutes, a law that no other county enforces. This law allowed her to take away the agricultural classification from a multitude of landowners in Taos County. This action increased the property tax for landowners in many instances by over 1000 percent This increase has caused many local landowners to consider selling their land because they cannot afford their property tax. This adds further to the inability of their children to acquire affordable housing.
Secondly, Ms. Vigil was part of a group of New Mexico County Assessors that sought unsuccessfully to do away with a statute that limits the amount by which property tax can increase annually. They not only tried to have the legislature change the law but when that failed, they tried to have the courts declare the law unconstitutional. Both efforts failed. Incidentally, this law’s passage was spearheaded by the late State House Speaker Ben Lujan, the father of current US Representative Ben Ray Lujan. The law was implemented to help people in the state that were being impacted by large increases in their property tax and were having to consider selling their lands because of the large tax burden. This increase was being caused by the large in migration of people fleeing their cities and moving to New Mexico. The same has happened in Taos since Ms. Vigil took action on eliminating the agricultural classification.
Lastly, I would like to address your statement that Ms. Vigil stood down the Taos County Commission. It is true. Ms. Vigil did in fact stop the Department of Finance and Administration’s (DFA) approval of the County’s annual budget. She took this action as allowed by law because the Commission was not fully funding positions she asked for, none of which were property assessors in her County Assessor Department. The Commission on the other hand was also effectuating its responsibility to establish a county budget as required by law. However, the rest of the story is that the Commission took this action because the Commission saw that Ms. Vigil was not fulfilling the duties of her department. The Commission’s and Ms. Vigil’s actions culminated in a joint meeting with the New Mexico Property Tax Division and DFA. These two state agencies agreed that the Commission was not fully funding the Assessor’s Department. They also found that Ms. Vigil’s department was not accomplishing the required duties and was increasing taxes annually by the maximum allowed by law by sitting in the office instead of going out in the field to perform actual property assessment. Ms. Vigil and the Commission were required to sign an agreement stating the Commission would fund the positions being asked for by Ms. Vigil and Ms. Vigil would have her staff do property tax assessments in the field and report quarterly to the Commission.
Ms. Vigils’ actions as a public official all point to a single-minded approach of taxing the people who can least afford it.