Claiming that Kinder Morgan pays only its minimum share of local taxes, Montezuma-Cortez Re-1 Superintendent Alex Carter said he envisioned company executives laughing all the way to the bank.
“Kinder Morgan is laying a golden egg into the pipe, and it’s shooting to Texas,” Carter told school board members last week. “This county is not getting its share.”
Carter said, for example, that if the school board built a new middle school, consolidated its elementary schools into a new building and upgraded the district’s bus fleet with a $100 million bond, taxpayers would be on the hook for just $28 million.
“Because oil and gas pays 72 percent of our taxes,” Carter said, pounding a boardroom table on Tuesday, Nov. 10.
Kinder Morgan spokesperson Sara Hughes was unable to confirm Carter’s revenue numbers because the company didn’t possess the information.
“However, we can tell you that Kinder Morgan pays taxes based upon the approved mill levy as listed on the tax bill,” she said.
Carter said the county could ask oil and gas to pay more taxes. He said he became aware of the situation after a meeting last month with Rudy Andras, an economist at RBC Capital Markets in Denver. In 2012, Andras worked with Re-1 to secure grant funding to build the new high school.
“The economist told me, ‘You guys are missing your opportunity,’” Carter said.
The Journal asked Hughes if Kinder Morgan should pay more in local taxes to benefit schools in the long term.
“Kinder Morgan is committed to being a good neighbor and corporate citizen, and the company pays taxes in accordance with the law,” she said.
Carter made the tax assertions last week during an hourlong work session aimed at analyzing the district’s finances.
He said it may be time to pass another bond measure, since Kinder Morgan is expected to leave the county within 20 years.
“Will Kinder Morgan want to pay more taxes?” he asked. “You bet, because this is an incredibly profitable county for them.”
Carter said Kinder Morgan invested $100 million in the county and made almost $600 million here last year.
Hughes said Kinder Morgan doesn’t disclose county-level revenue.
As for the company’s local investment, 2014 financial documents reveal that Kinder Morgan invested $214 million to expand its central facilities near Yellow Jacket. This year, the company expected to complete a $344 million project in Cow Canyon and a $233 million Cortez-to-Texas pipeline.
County tax revenues from oil and gas are dispersed only to the Re-1 district, Carter said, not to Mancos and Dolores.
“This is something I think that we need to address as a new board,” said Sherri Wright.
Board member Jack Schuenemeyer agreed, saying, “The longer the board waits to do something ... the more problems we will run into in getting this passed.”
“For the hard-core tax opponents, if it was spelled out like this, then I think people would understand,” said board member Mike Tanner.
Kinder Morgan is the largest energy infrastructure and the third-largest energy company in North America, with an enterprise value of more than $125 billion. It owns an interest in or operates about 80,000 miles of pipelines and 180 terminals.