Commission looks at tax increases

By Tony Parra

Roosevelt County Commissioners are looking at increases in taxes to help pay for increasing expenditures for the services provided by the county.
Commissioners approved the intent to implement a 1/16 tax increment increase to the gross receipt tax to help balance the budget. The 1/16 gross receipt tax would mean an additional 6.25 cents on a $100 non-grocery purchase from county businesses, such as Wal-Mart and Beall’s, according to Charlene Hardin, county administrator.
Groceries are no longer taxed in New Mexico, effective January 1.
If other county or city governments in New Mexico were to keep from making increases to their gross receipt taxes and the gross receipt tax increment is approved, Portales would sit alone as the third highest gross receipt tax in the state at 7.565 percent behind Gallup and Ruidoso at 7.6875 percent. Currently the gross receipt tax in Portales is tied for third highest with other cities at a 7.5625 percent.
Commissioners also approved the intent to add either one or two mils to the mil levy. Commissioners decided that through the public hearing process they will determine whether they add one, two or none at all.
For example, if a one-mil increase to the mil-levy is approved, this would mean an additional $33 in property taxes to a property valued at $100,000, according to Royene Tivis, county assessor.
“It’s a bad timing for it,” Gene Creighton, county chairman, said. “Unless we cut services, we’re going to have to increase property taxes at the same time.”
Roosevelt County has a 8.85 mil levy rate, below the 11.85 maximum allowable for any county in the state. Of the 33 counties in New Mexico, 20 have the maximum mil levy rate.
Hardin said one mil added would generate an additional $198,000 in revenue for the fiscal year for the county and the gross receipt tax would generate an additional $114,000 in additional revenue for the fiscal year. If the taxes are approved, they would go into effect on Jan. 1, which means the county would accumulate six months of the revenue from the new taxes because the fiscal year runs from July 1 of 2006 to June 30 of 2007.
The gross receipt tax was approved unanimously.
The mil levy tax was approved three votes for (Creighton, Tom Clark and Dennis Lopez) and one vote against (Paul Grider). Commissioner David Sanders was unable to attend the meeting.
“I don’t like property taxes,” Clark said. “If we’re going to tax, we’re going to tax with the gross receipt tax. They (county employees) earned a right to a raise.”
The interim budget has the scenario of the gross receipt tax being approved to help pay for a 5 percent increase in pay for county employees. If that is the case, there would still be a budget shortfall of $170,752 due to increases in expenditures.
The budgeted expenditures for the 2005-06 fiscal year are $4,366,399 and the budgeted revenue is $4,195,647.
The first step in the process of implementing the taxes occurred during the county meeting on Tuesday. Hardin said now the intents will be advertised, and a public hearing will follow. After the public hearing, the intents will come before the county commission for a vote. The process will take a couple of months.
Commissioners also voiced their support for Cannon Air Force Base, which was on Friday’s Base Realignment and Closure list as a recommendation for closure. A resolution for support from the county has already been created.
Lopez asked about the possibility of funding to help the lobbying effort. Randy Knudson, county attorney, said a possibility would be that the money comes from an economic development ordinance. However, Hardin said there is no money in the economic development fund.