Clovis Mayor David Lansford addresses members of the Clovis community about the city’s need for a 0.25 percent gross receipts tax during Wednesday’s “Gearing Up For Growth” press conference at city hall. CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth.
A one-quarter of a percent gross receipts tax increase would help pay for the cost of infrastructure improvements and new city equipment as well as freeing up money in the city’s general fund for other uses such as employee raises, Mayor David Lansford and members of the City Commission said Wednesday.
Lansford and the commissioners used a press conference at City Hall to kick off a five-month campaign to pass the gross receipts tax increase, which will go to the voters March 2.
The gross receipts tax increase would generate approximately $1.2 million a year, which, under state statute, can only used for infrastructure issues, Lansford said.
The tax revenue would fund expenses under the Ute Water Pipeline Project, residential street improvements, storm water drainage systems, police and fire vehicles, and equipment and waste water treatment plant expansion, he said.
Lansford said “whatever is needed” from the revenue would be used to cover Ute Water pipeline costs, for which Clovis’s share will total $12 million. The project could cost the city about $200,000 just over the next year or so in its share of engineering and environmental studies and the purchasing of easements, he said.
But Lansford said the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Authority, which oversees the water project, is seeking money from the state and federal governments. To get those funds, it must show that its members also are willing to invest in it.
“I’m scheduled to attend a meeting of the state Water Board Monday in Santa Fe and I want to be able to say we are pursing a one-quarter gross receipts tax increase to help cover those costs,” Lansford said.
He said that the commission has not done a break down of how much of the tax increase would be devoted to each infrastructure project. Furthermore, he said, divided up among the projects, the $1.2 million would not fully pay for any one project.
“Our needs will still outweigh the revenues, but it will help,” he said.
If the tax increase is approved, money that now comes out of the general fund for such things as replacing police cars and ambulances could be used for other purposes, he said.
City Manager Ray Mondragon will ask the City Commission next week to approve a $7,500 survey of how Clovis measures against other cities in terms of employee compensation and benefits.
Although the Curry County Commission failed to get a similar gross receipts tax increase passed last month, Lansford said he feels the city’s request has a better chance with the voters.
“It’s simple. The need for it is obvious and the entire commission is behind it,” he said.
Commissioner Juan Garza agreed about the commission’s support.
“I think any of us would rather enact a gross receipts tax increase than a property tax,” he said.
But Commissioner Isidro Garcia said there are still a lot of “ifs, ands and buts” about some city projects.
“We’re asking the federal government for 80 percent of the expenses for the Ute Water Project. If they don’t approve that we probably won’t be able to afford it,” he said.
If approved by voters, the tax increase would take effect July 1, 2004, Lansford said.