Commissioner urges gross receipts tax hike

By Jack King

Saying the money is needed for unfinished business, City Commissioner Kevin Duncan called for the city to place a one-quarter of one percent gross receipts tax increase on a March ballot.
Referring to a city strategic plan the commission approved in 2002, Duncan said, “There are issues this commission has had in front of them since I’ve been a commissioner. Number 1 is limited resources. Number 2 is retaining qualified personnel, particularly in the police and fire departments, and No. 3 is hiring qualified personnel.”
He said the city still doesn’t know how it will pay for its part of the Ute Water Project, must deal with constantly rising healthcare costs of city workers and is behind on its street repairs.
“As a commissioner, when I look at how much we have and how much we have to spend, it just doesn’t add up,” he said.
Although the gross receipts tax increase could only be used to pay for infrastructure improvements, Duncan said it could be used to free other city money to pay for other expenses.
He said if the city can’t persuade voters to approve a gross receipts tax increase, commissioners should enact 3.9 mils of property tax on its own.
“I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to tax property,” he said. “With gross receipts taxes everyone pays.”
Mayor David Lansford said even if voters failed to approve a gross receipts tax increase, he would not support a property tax increase “in no way, shape or form.”
“If it’s not approved, we’ll have to get by on what we have,” the mayor said.
Commissioner Gloria Wicker said residents should support the building of both city and county special events centers because they will bring tourist dollars to Clovis. Commissioner Robert Sandoval said the city’s financial condition was a matter of “asking if this bottle is half full or half empty.”
“I know we need to plan for the future, but we’re not in a crisis situation,” he said.
Commissioner Catherine Haynes said she would support putting gross receipts taxes on the ballot. She said she has been studying the city budget and knows there is not a lot of money in it for increases.
City Attorney David Richards said the commission will have to vote in December on whether to put a gross receipts tax issue on the March ballot.
In other business:
n The commission tabled action on an ordinance governing premanufactured carports. City Manager Raymond Mondragon said he has asked Fermin Aragon, bureau chief of the state Construction Industries Division, to clarify whether or not residents attempting to erect carports must get an engineer’s stamp on them.
CID previously issued a memorandum saying the stamp is required, but when Mondragon and Duncan asked him Thursday about the requirement he said he would have to research the matter, Mondragon said.
“There’s a chance that might not be a requirement,” Mondragon said.
Several carport owners who attended the meeting said they were frustrated the city has failed again to settle the carport issue, but added they appreciate that officials are trying to resolve the stamp issue.
“A local contractor told me an engineer’s stamp costs $600,” said Larry Porter.
• The commission gave final approval to an ordinance establishing a reorganized city finance committee to maintain an investment policy and budgetary compliance. The ordinance requires an additional city commissioner on the committee and, when Lansford asked who wanted to serve, both Duncan and Haynes announced their interest.
But, according to an Aug. 21 News-Journal report, Haynes has already been appointed to the slot.
“That’s what I thought, too,” Haynes said Thursday night. “The first time (the commission) talked about this David Lansford said ‘I would like to recommend Commissioner Haynes.” After tonight’s meeting, I asked him about it and he acted like he didn’t know what I was talking about.”
According to the minutes of the commission’s Aug. 21 meeting, approved by the commission, Lansford “advised with the addition of Commissioner Haynes on this committee, he thinks this committee will function at top notch level.”
Mondragon said Thursday that previously Haynes had only expressed interest in the position. Lansford did not return a call seeking clarification on Thursday night.