City officials happy with GRT numbers

By Tony Parra: PNT Staff Writer

Higher numbers for gross receipt tax revenue than projected for the last part of the 2005 year alleviated fears for Portales city officials that the elimination of the food tax might hurt the GRT revenue.

Debi Lee, Portales city manager, said in the last six months of 2005, GRT revenue was higher than projections. Only in the months of October and December were numbers lower than budget estimations.

Gov. Bill Richardson wanted to eliminate the food tax because he believed it would help working families. New Mexicans did not have to pay a tax on their groceries, effective January of 2005.

“We were worried the elimination of the food tax would catch up with us,” Lee said. “It didn’t affect GRT revenue and we have not seen a decline.”

The budget projection for the last five months of 2005 and January of 2006 was $2.459 million. Lee was pleased to see the actual GRT revenue was $2.589 million for those months, $130,196 over the projections.

Don Peterson, La Tienda store manager, said the store staff didn’t have to make many adjustments in sending GRT revenue to the New Mexico Taxation & Revenue Department after the change.

“Our customers were glad to see that there was no food tax,” Peterson said. “It was a good year for us in sales and so far this year has been good, too.”

Peterson said he has seen patterns of growth in Portales and one way to tell how the town has made progress is by the customer traffic.

“Sales will tell you a lot about the town’s progress,” Peterson said. “I’ve seen the town grow. We’ve been getting a lot of different people in the store.”

Max Merrick, owner of True Value Hardware store, said business was good for the store in 2005. He said business has been good for his wife, June, who is expanding her business, the Ashley Furniture store. Monday was the opening of the store with its new addition. The size of the store doubled from 11,000 square feet to 22,000 square feet.

“It (2005) was a good year for True Value,” Max Merrick said. “We’ve seen a steady growth in customers. We’ve seen a lot more construction. It’s been very positive.”

Lee said two of the biggest GRT revenue-generating industries in Portales are retail and construction.

“The really good news is that retail is up,” Lee said. “Construction represents a windfall. It’s not a recurring revenue, whereas retail is. That’s a sign that the town is growing.”

Since 1998 the slowest months in construction GRT revenue has been November and August has been the highest GRT-revenue generating month, according to GRT reports from the city of Portales. In August of 1998, there was slightly more than $50,000 in construction GRT revenue compared to almost $350,000 in August of 2005.
Since 1998 the lowest GRT revenue-generating months for the retail industry have been March and May.

Lee said the revenue generated is helping to rebuild the city’s reserve fund. She said the GRT revenue helps pay for city’s basic services, such as responding to ambulance, fire department and police calls. It helps pay for maintenance of city parks and streets.