Group: Tax petition has two thirds of necessary signatures

Kevin Wilson

A little more than one week into their efforts, the High Plains Patriots appear roughly two thirds of the way into forcing a special election on a .25 percent gross receipts tax increase.

“We have somewhere around 300 (signatures), is what I’ve gotten from people we’ve talked to over the weekend,” High Plains President Kim Runyan said.

The group must obtain at least 456 signatures to force an election.

The citizen group started the petition Feb. 4, the day after city commissioners adopted an ordinance to increase gross receipt taxes.

Clovis’ current GRT rate is 7.5625 percent, and would jump to 7.8125 percent on July 1 under the ordinance. The ordinance is set to expire 10 years later, and provide about $1.5 million annually to help pay the city’s $36 million financial obligation for the Ute Water Project.

According to Section 8-2 of the city charter:

• After any ordinance is passed, voters have 30 days to file a petition signed by registered voters, totaling more than 20 percent of the number of voters in the last city election.

The current petition requires 456 signatures, as there were 2,276 ballots cast in the 2010 city elections. The petition must be turned in on or before March 7 — the first business day following the 30-day mark of March 5.

• The ordinance becomes ineffective after the petition is presented, and the commission must provide for an election on the measure within 60 days of the petition filing.

If a successful petition is filed on March 7, an election must take place on or before May 6, for example.

There is no targeted date for a potential special election yet, because it depends on the petition being filed and having accurate signatures.

“There haven’t really been any definitive discussions about it,” City Manager Joe Thomas said.

• The ballot must contain the text of the ordinance in question, with the choices “For the above measure” or “Against the above measure.”

Runyan said the petition is on highplainspatriots.com, the group’s website. It’s also at various businesses across the city including R&D Service Center, Pack & Mail, Clovis Concrete and American Self Storage.

She said signatures must come from registered voters inside the Clovis city limits, and the name and address on the petition must match voter registration records. Runyan has gone as far as advising people to copy from their voter registration cards when they sign the petition.

“We have gone over that extensively so people understand that,” Runyan said, “and I’m pretty confident they do.”

The $500 million Ute Water Project 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.

The gross receipts tax ordinance passed by a 7-1 vote with Commissioner Randy Crowder voting against. Crowder said he supports the project, but not raising taxes, and contends the project can be paid for by shuffling upcoming expiring taxes.