Candidates field forum questions

Donna Griego, left, and Amy McKinley, right, prepare to answer questions during the Alamosa candidate forum on Tuesday. The two are running for the open Alamosa County treasurer's seat./Courier photo by Ruth Heide

ALAMOSA — Candidates fielded questions from their future bosses on Tuesday during a forum for Alamosa County and House District 62 candidates in Alamosa.

The Alamosa Chamber of Commerce and Valley Courier sponsored the forum at the Society Hall, and Courier Publisher Keith Cerny served as moderator while Chamber Executive Director Randy Wright served as timekeeper.

The forum was well attended, with numerous questions asked of candidates for county and state office. Questions for treasurer and assessor candidates are featured in today’s Courier with questions/responses from county commissioner and state house candidates featured tomorrow.

Candidates for Alamosa County treasurer are Democrat Donna Griego and Republican Amy McKinley. The successful candidate in this race will replace retiring Treasurer Lois Widhalm.

Incumbent Alamosa County Assessor Sandra Hostetter, a Republican faces challenger Josef Lucero, an independent, in the November election. Lucero was not present at the Tuesday night forum, so questions regarding the assessor’s race only reflect Hostetter’s responses.

Questions/responses for treasurer and assessor candidates follow:

Treasurer’s race

Question: Where do you see Alamosa in five years?

McKinley: “I think we will continue to be a growing community and progressive.” She said Alamosa has been very progressive in the last 10 years and inclusive of all types of people, so she sees it as a place where people will want to live.

Griego: “I would like to see a lot more economic development in our community.” She said she has visited with many people in the community including business owners and believes Alamosa is a strong community that will continue to be successful into the future.

Question: Regarding foreclosures, would you be more homeowner or bank friendly?

McKinley: “I will have to follow state statute and I will act as a neutral third party and I will do the job that is required of me and be the neutral third party between the lender and the homeowner.”

Griego: She said she would be as sensitive and compassionate as she could to homeowners, work with the banks and follow state statutes. “I will stand for our homeowners, and I will stand for our banks. I am in the middle.”

Question: Share an experience dealing with a difficult person and how you handled it.

McKinley: She said she has dealt with many difficult situations in 28 years of working with the public and believes in listening and talking things out, working towards a compromise, which often resolves the problem.

Griego: She said she listens to the person and tries to understand where the person is coming from and why he or she is upset. She would work towards reaching middle ground with the person.

Question: What steps would you take to put the county on firmer financial footing?

Griego: One way would be to be aggressive in collecting property taxes while remaining compassionate towards those who might be delinquent, understanding where they are coming from. She would also make decisions based on state statutes and regulations.

McKinley: It takes all county offices to put the county on firmer financial footing. The treasurer is responsible for collecting property taxes and has had a rate of 95-99 percent in the past, which she would hope to continue.

(There was also a question specifically for Griego about the veteran, senior and educational groups that have endorsed her. She said she had endorsements from individuals, not groups, and was particularly proud of the military service in her family including her father, a World War II veteran, and her son.)

Assessor’s race

(As Lucero was not present, the responses are solely from Hostetter.)

Question: Where do you see Alamosa in five years?

Answer: “I see Alamosa continuing to grow,” she said. When she was first elected as assessor, the county’s valuation totaled $105 million, and it is now $179 million. She said Alamosa is a thriving community, and she sees nothing but progress in the future.

Question: What factors are important in valuing property?

Answer: It depends on the property. For residential, it’s the market approach, using sales. For commercial, it is cost, market and income, and for agricultural, it is a 10-year average.

Question: What avenue do taxpayers have if they disagree with their values?

Answer: After receiving their notices of value, property owners have the entire month of May to appeal the value if they disagree with it. First, the person can appeal to the assessor’s office. If the person is still dissatisfied, he or she can appeal to the county board of equalization (county commissioners) and if there is still a disagreement, the person can appeal to district court and the state board of equalization.

Question: How do the Gallagher Amendment and TABOR affect assessed valuations?

Answer: The Gallagher Amendment requires the tax burden to be split between commercial property (55 percent) and residential (45 percent.) To maintain that split, the assessment for commercial property is set at 29 percent and residential fluctuates. When she began the residential rate was 14.3 percent and is now 7.2 percent but will be 6.11 percent next year. “The lower that tax rate, the less property tax is collected,” she said. TABOR (Taxpayers Bill of Rights) comes into play, Hostetter explained, in that it forbids raising taxes without a vote of the people.