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Press Release (TheHudsonFirm.com)

The coal dust has settled. Peabody Energy has sent a wired fund transfer to the Routt County Treasurer’s Office to cover the full cost of their delinquent taxes, as well as six months of interest amassed as of November, 2016.

It took a bit of effort, many discussions, and sticking to good fiscal principles in order to fulfill our obligation to the taxpayers, but the Routt County Treasurer’s Office got it done. In addition to the full tax payment being received, legal fees that the Treasurer’s Office accrued while working on receiving full payment were paid by Peabody Energy in their entirety. The Routt County Treasurer’s Office did not spend one dime of taxpayer’s dollars to recover overdue funds - per state statute the delinquent tax payer is responsible for all the costs incurred to recover the delinquent taxes. Those funds were swiftly distributed to taxing entities by the Routt County Treasurer’s Office including the South Routt School, South Routt Medical Center, West Routt Fire District, and others.

In case you missed it, Peabody Energy and their local coal mining entities, Twenty Mile, Hayden Gulch and Sage Creek, filed bankruptcy in April, 2016. The coal company paid half of their taxes due on time. June, 2016 rolled around and the second half was not paid as required. This lack of payment left schools, medical centers, libraries, water districts and fire departments short of funds to the tune of $1.8 million dollars. SOROCO School Board Superintendent Darcy Mohr quickly informed the county that payroll could not be covered in July without the overdue tax money. The other unfunded special districts were strapped as well and were hoping to have their expenses funded soon.

But before payment was made, some Routt County elected officials thought they could accept less than the full payment owed to maintain operations. They were unaware that state statute identifies the County Treasurer as the only authorized agent to accept tax dollars. Each county elected official has the responsibility for their respective piece of government, and together they satisfy the total scope of county government.

I take my role as your elected County Treasurer very seriously, but it can be challenging in the face of a lack of trust. During the negotiations, some feared that holding out for full payment would jeopardize the operations that needed the funds immediately. I could not legally or morally accept anything less than full payment with penalty interest. I am a responsible public servant that serves without compromise, knowing the right way is the only way. I will stand for the citizens of Routt County and not fade under the roar of political winds. I strive to treat everyone the same, and get the job done the right way for all involved.

The good news is it now looks like Peabody is re-organizing while under bankruptcy. This will hopefully ensure a mutually productive future for both that company and our community. As for the Treasurer’s Office, we are back to the daily work of assisting our community in this New Year. It is our pleasure to serve all taxpayers, and businesses, and public entities equally in Routt County.

--  Brita Horn is the Routt County Treasurer/Public Trustee and the Fire Chief for Rock Creek VFD in McCoy. She has resided in Colorado since 1989 and lives on the family ranch with her rancher husband Gary. They have two daughters that attend land grant colleges, CSU and Kansas State.

Brita has been elected by her peers to be the President of the Public Trustee Association of Colorado.