County tax referendum fails

By David Irvin: CNJ staff writer

A gross receipts tax increase adopted by the county in January will go into effect this summer as planned after a petition filed to put the tax to a public vote was ruled invalid.

County clerk Mario Trujillo told the County Commission on Tuesday nearly 400 of the 1,300 signatures on the petition filed earlier this month could not be validated for various reasons such as addresses that didn’t match voter registration, signatures on multiple petitions, and more than 200 that weren’t registered voters.

The referendum, filed to call a special election on a 1/8 percent gross receipts tax increase, needed 1,079 valid signatures to pass, Trujillo said.

Adopted Jan. 4, the tax will now go into effect in July and would mean 12 1/2 cents added to every $100 of merchandise purchase in Curry County.

State law stipulates that a referendum of this kind must be filed within 60 days of ordinance adoption.

Former County Commissioner Paul D. Barnes, who helped put the petition together, said last week the county needs to cut costs rather than raise taxes. He also argued that an additional tax will hurt the local economy.

“You can’t keep throwing new money at an old problem, unless you fix the problem,” the former county commissioner said last week.

Barnes could not be reached Tuesday for comment.
County attorney Steve Doerr said the petition also needed to specifically request a vote, which he said it didn’t.

“The statute requires that the clerk certify it, and he could not certify it,” Doerr said. “Under the statute the petition as circulated must request an election, and this one didn’t request an election.”

Based on the information provided at the meeting by Doerr and Trujillo, the commission unanimously voted to take no action.

The special election would have cost somewhere between $20,000 to $35,000, county officials have said.