While she didn’t dream of property values as a child, shortly after graduating from high school, Beverly Dominguez Romero took a job with Valencia County that sparked her interest.
Working as a waitress, Dominguez Romero, the newly-elected Valencia County Assessor, was offered a job in the county treasurer’s office.
“It was a little more money, and it was something that was really fun and different for someone that age,” Dominguez Romero said.
She was laid off from that position and a few months later, asked to work in the county assessor’s office.
“Property taxes are actually really interesting,” she said.
The field has kept her interest, this being Dominguez Romero’s third term serving as assessor — her first two being from 1999 to 2006.
She’s been a New Mexico Certified Appraiser since 2002, a certification granted by the International Association of Assessing Officers, which required Dominguez Romero to complete classes in mass appraisal, business and land appraisals.
“The classes are based on what we do in the assessor’s office,” she said. “It helps with knowing and understanding how to value in mass. It’s not like when a property is appraised for a refinancing or home loan. It’s based on mass, what the market is doing, how different neighborhoods are performing. It’s all volume.”
Current state law requires every property in a county to be visually verified for assessment purposes every five years, Dominguez Romero said.
“It takes about two years to do the entire county, and right now we have six assessors and that’s not nearly enough,” she said.
Ideally, she would like to hire temporary workers to go out with those six employees to do field work. The temporary employees don’t need to be assessors, she said, since they mainly serve as assistants to the county staff.
Dominguez Romero noted that when county assessor staff are out looking at properties, they will always have official county identification and be driving marked vehicles.
“We do not drive unmarked vehicles and we don’t ask to go inside your home,” she said.
During her next four years in office, Dominguez Romero’s main goal is to educate people about the property tax process.
The way the law reads now, property taxes increases 3 percent annually, she said, a practice she doesn’t necessarily agree with.
“There are some properties where 3 percent may not be warranted, so that is making our job a little harder,” she said. “I want to educate people in how we value their property, who qualifies for the various exemptions, such as disabled veterans, and helping small businesses keep track of all the personal property they are taxed on.
“The big box stores, they have someone to take care of all that, and they send a list of their property,” Dominguez Romero said. “A small business owner might not know their valuation and property taxes include their shelves, computers, tables.”
Valuations are required to be current and correct, but Dominguez Romero said they also need to be fair and equitable.
“In a perfect world, you would have all those things, and have the largest tax base possible,” she said. “If properties are assessed currently and correctly, fairly and equitably, a county can generate the most revenue possible. There isn’t just magically more money. Everyone gets a part, from the county to the schools.”
Dominguez Romero encourages all property owners to look closely at the notices of value they receive every spring.
“That’s what generates your tax bill. If it went up sharply, double check the valuation. People do make mistakes,” she said. “We encourage people to come in now, before the end of February if they can, to check their valuations are correct before the notices go out.”
Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.