Gross receipts tax election set for Tuesday

Kevin Wilson

The city is holding a special election Tuesday for a gross receipts tax increase. Here are some of the basics about the election:

What is being voted on? Ordinance 1953-2011 would impose a .25 percent gross receipts tax increase (25 cents per $100 spent on taxable items) for 10 years, to be dedicated only to the Eastern New Mexico Water Utility Authority for “development, planning, financing, construction, operation and payment of bonds for the Ute Reservoir Pipeline Project.”

How many have voted so far: Friday was the final day for early voting. City Clerk LeighAnn Melancon said the city had 380 early voters and 23 votes by mail. There are about 16,000 registered voters in the city.

Voting runs from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

What if voters approve the GRT increase? Clovis’ gross receipts tax rate, effective Jan. 1, 2012, would be 7.8125 percent. The tax would provide about $1.5 million annually to help pay for a $13 million portion of the city’s financial obligation for the $500 million Ute Water Project. The city’s total obligation is $36 million, with the remainder made up by water sales.

What if voters reject it? Mayor Gayla Brumfield has said the project must be funded. The City Commission would ultimately decide what approach to take, but the next two options mentioned are:

• Property taxes. There are 10,119 property owners in the city limits of Clovis. Any property tax would be done in a mill rate. For every mill added, a property owner would owe an additional $33.33 per $100,000 taxable value of property.

• Franchise fees: Some or all of the financial obligations would be paid by New Mexico American Water, Clovis’ water supplier. It passes on those charges to its consumers. Brumfield and City Manager Joe Thomas said the fee could raise water rates at least 17 percent.

Also, under state law, the city commission would not be able to propose a future imposition of any tax increment until May 3, 2012.

How did we get here? The Clovis City Commission passed the ordinance by a 7-1 vote in a Feb. 3 commission meeting. However, the city charter allows an ordinance to go to a special election if, within 30 days, petition signatures are gathered in excess of 20 percent of the total voters in the previous municipal election. The High Plains Patriots citizens group met the requirement.

What’s the “Better Plan” being floated? City Commissioner Randy Crowder was the only commissioner to vote against the ordinance. He supports the project, but said the financial obligation can be met without raising taxes or cutting services.

The plan, posted at the High Plains Patriots website, would require rededication of many taxes to reach a total of $14,120,711 over eight years:

• The City currently has $900,000 per year dedicated to water from the 2004 gross receipts tax increase. ($7.2 million produced over eight years)

• The resolution also included $97,440 in annual discretionary spending, which would go to the project. ($779,520 over eight years)

• The actual 2010 income from the GRT was $1,794,694 — $97,254 more than the projected 2011 revenue of $1,697,440. Add the excess $97,254 to the water project. ($778,032 over eight years)

• The city adopted increased garbage rates which took effect in April, which would allow the landfill to be self-supporting and free up a .0625 percent tax to pay for landfill operation. The city had $2,477,427 in its landfill debt service account in December, enough to pay the landfill’s outstanding principal balance of $1,404,000. The tax generated $443,427 in 2010, and would be added to the project. ($3,103,989 over seven years).

• The city has a bond that scheduled to pay off in 2013, which paid for Potter Park’s pool and various city park equipment. The bond is paid off through a pair of .0625 percent taxes — one dedicated to parks and one dedicated to infrastructure. Each of those generated $451,834 in 2010. The taxes would need to continue through 2012 to pay off the $1.69 million principal (along with fund balances of $782,785 in infrastructure, infrastructure improvements and special parks improvement funds). In 2013, the infrastructure tax could be rededicated to the water project ($2,259,170 over five years).

Brumfield and Thomas said such a plan would leave the city without money for infrastructure concerns like street work and a new landfill cell, or reserve money in case there is an emergency such as when the Hull Street Overpass needed to be replaced.

The commission made a $30,000 budget transfer to pay for the election. How does an election cost $30,000? Actually, it doesn’t. The figure, Melancon said, is enough to pay for the election and have some overage in case of unexpected costs. Any money left after the election is paid for would be transferred back to the city’s general fund.

So far, Melancon has encumbered, or expects to encumber, about $17,000 with the following:

• Printing costs of $9,000 so far: “Regardless of previous turnout,” Melancon said, “I have to make sure there are enough ballots for all voters.”

The standard print job for that is 80 percent of registered voters, and other materials like sample ballots, signage, and mailing materials for absentee ballots.

• Poll worker payments of $6,235: That includes payments of $150 for precinct judges and $125 for three other judges — $525 per precinct, for 11 precincts. Another $60 is divided between three alternates. They each get paid $20 specifically to be on call, Melancon said, which means they’re up at 6 a.m. just in case somebody calls in sick.

• Advertising costs of $1,257: Notice of the election must be advertised four times in local media, with a list of polling places advertised twice.

• Voting machine use that could be $455 or more. The county supplies voting machines for the elections, and Melancon said previous usage fees were $35 each for 13 machines — 11 precincts, one early voting precinct and an absentee precinct.

Polling places

Polling places for Tuesday’s special election. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

If a citizen needs clarification as to where they would vote they may call LeighAnn Melancon at 763-9632 or Joanne King at 763-9631.

If you live in District 1:

• Mesa Elementary, 4801 N. Norris

Precincts 17, 37 and 35

• Zia Elementary, 2400 N. Norris

Precinct 18

• Zia Elementary, 2400 N. Norris

Precinct 19

• Living Stones Community Church, 1800 N. Norris

Precinct 24

If you live in District 2:

• Marshall Middle School, 100 Commerce Way

Precincts 21, 22, 26 and the portion of Precinct 20 between Ninth and 17th streets

• Yucca Middle School, 1500 Sycamore

Precincts 23, 27 and 32

• Lockwood Elementary School, 400 Lockwood

Precincts 5, 28 and 33

If you live in District 3:

• Clovis High School Freshman Campus, 1400 Cameo

Precincts 7, 8, 9, 31 and the portion of Precinct 20 south of Ninth Street

• Roy Walker Community Center, 203 Merriwether

Precincts 6 and 25

If you live in District 4:

• Highland Elementary School, 100 E Plains

Precincts 13, 14, 15 and the portion of Precinct 20 north of 17th Street

• Sandia Elementary Schools, 2801 Lore

Precincts 10, 11 and 12