Commissioners hear street financing options

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

Public Works Director Tom Howell gave a presentation to the Portales City Council Tuesday on alternatives for stepping up the scope of street projects which councilors have recognized in previous meetings, are falling behind.

His presentation outlined three possible ways of financing more street projects in an attempt to try and catch up maintenance of streets.

He told councilors his study the city would currently need $13 million just to improve the city’s major street arteries.

Councilor Mike Miller, who is a local lobbyist, said he had recently been to state meetings where the same sorts of issues were being raised about state highways.

“Local governments are, on a much smaller scale, facing some of the same problems,” Miller said.

Miller said with the state coming up short of funds promised to road projects by recent Legislatures, things could get even tougher for the city.

“It’ll be interesting to see how the outcome there plays out,” Miller said. “It could impact the dollars the city gets from the Legislature.”

Howell said the city has two 1/4 cent gross receipts tax increments that could be enacted. Together they would raise $480,000 annually.

He said the council could also look at borrowing against the five-year future income from GRT to finance a larger block of work that would provide greater economies of scale and get more work done sooner, saving money. He estimated that scenario could provide between $1 million and $2 million at one time for street projects.

The GRT measure would require voter approval which can only be enacted in January and July. The city might therefore look at putting the issue on the March ballot for enactment in July.

The final alternative he outlined was improvement districts. That measure would require approval of owners of at least two-thirds of the assessed value in the district. The property owners would then be assessed their portion of the improvements.

Howell said that Portales had an improvement district in the 1950s that paved some of the southern portions of the city.

“Mr. Miller is right, it’s going to be a challenge for all of us,” commented Portales Mayor Orlando Ortega Jr.

City Manager Debi Lee suggested that the council take the matter up further in a work session prior to the next meeting on Nov. 20.