Commission approves gross receipts tax increase

Kevin Wilson

The Clovis City Commission approved a .25 percent gross receipts tax increase, effective July 1, during its meeting Thursday.

The tax, which will be in place for 10 years and raises the city’s GRT rate to 7.8125 percent, is expected to generate about $1.5 million annually to help pay the city’s share of the Ute Water Project.

The vote was 7-1, with Commissioner Randy Crowder voting no.

The city has a $36 million share in the project — a $500 million pipeline that will pump water from the Ute Reservoir in Quay County to members of the Eastern New Mexico Water Utility Authority.

Clovis would receive about 75 percent of the water and is in the authority with Portales, Texico, Melrose, Elida, and Curry and Roosevelt counties.

Prior to the vote, Crowder reiterated he was voting against a tax increase, not against the water project.

“I’ve been an advocate for this project longer than anybody at this table,” Crowder said. “I want it really clear, on the record, I support the project.”

Crowder has contended the city’s obligation can be paid by renewing other expiring taxes, and didn’t feel options like franchise fees were looked at enough. He added that a gross receipt tax isn’t fair to people who won’t get the water from the pipeline, but who will pay the tax every time they shop in the city. Crowder also said he wasn’t invited to or aware of any meetings about other options.

Commissioner Fred Van Soelen said with the right logic, any tax could be argued as unfair. But he felt the gross receipts tax, while “not perfect,” was the best option because property taxes only burden property holders and franchise fees could spike water rates as much as 17 percent.

Mayor Gala Brumfield said she wanted to erase any notion of secret meetings, and said commissioners have come in and talked one-on-one with city staff about finances regarding the water project and other business.

The financial commitment was necessary, she said.

“It does send a clear, strong message that we support the project,” Brumfield said, “and we’re going to pay our own way.”

Two amendments were made to the ordinance. One, requested by Crowder, added “only” to stipulate the money would be dedicated exclusively to the Ute Water Project. City Attorney David Richards said it seemed redundant, but adding the language wasn’t problematic. The other will retire the tax in 10 years.

Residents in opposition of the decision have 30 days to acquire a petition with at least 456 signatures. That total represents 20 percent of the 2,276 registered voters participating in the 2010 city elections.

A petition would force what is called a “negative referendum” election, with residents vote in favor of or in opposition to rescinding the commission’s decision.

The Clovis City Commission met at the north annex of the Clovis-Carver Public Library. Other business included:

• The city presented a certificate of appreciation to Cummins Natural Gas Engines. The company purchased 16 trees, which were planted in December at Greene Acres Park.

• An agreement between the city and Old Lyceum Theatre, Inc. was tabled. Parks and Recreation Director Bill Bizzell said the item should have been on the Feb. 17 agenda but was inadvertently placed on Thursday’s agenda. The proposed agreement still needs to be reviewed by the board of the theater maintenance group, Bizzell said.

• A task order was approved for $23,914.50 towards the wastewater treatment plant improvements, allowing the plant to send thinner sludge to rotary drum thickeners. The task order will be filled by Camp, Dresser & McKee.

• A task order was approved to design a storm drain system for Llano Estacado Boulevard from Prince Street to Norris Street. Water would be carried to the Goodwin Playa. The task order, completed by Bohannan Huston, Inc. will cost $50,276.09.

• A $23,095.95 task order was approved for periodic air quality reports. The task order will be filled by Camp, Dresser & McKee.