County proposing tax hike

By Ryan Lengerich: CNJ staff writer

The Curry County Commission is poised to increase gross receipts taxes for next fiscal year.

The Commission on Tuesday passed a notice of intent to adopt an ordinance that would raise gross receipts tax by .125 percent. The increase falls under a “negative referendum,” meaning the Commission does not have to place it on a ballot before enacting it.

By adopting the intent, the Commission gives the public four weeks notice. The Commission is scheduled to take public input and vote on the ordinance at the Jan. 4 meeting.
The intent was passed 4-0 with County Commissioner Pete Hulder absent.

If passed and residents oppose the increase, they would have to present a petition containing names totaling 5 percent of the number of voters in the last general election to initiate a referendum.

The increase would not take effect until the new fiscal year begins July 1. Lance Pyle, county indigent administrator, expects the impact to be between $700,000 and $900,000 for the year.

Commissioner Tim Ashley said the county budget is in a position where either a gross receipts tax or property tax increase is a “necessity.”

Ashley said the money was needed to fund a budget crunch resulting in part from detention center overcrowding.

Commissioner Ed Perales said he will recommend budget cuts within the county during the budgeting session early next year.

“When you increase gross receipts tax you cut into the public’s budget and I would ask that we do the same,” Perales said.

The county last raised gross receipts taxes in March when a 1/8-percent increase for county corrections and a 1/16-percent general increase was passed. Those increases take effect Jan. 1, Pyle said.

In other business:

• Commissioners said they plan to ask the state Legislature for money to chipseal a 9-mile stretch of Curry and Roosevelt Road 3. The Commission wants support from the Roosevelt County Commission before requesting funds.

• The Commission revamped their legislative priorities for the upcoming state Legislature.

The Commission agreed to request:
• $500,000 for county roads, up $100,000.
• $502,090 for jail improvements, up $100,000.
• $400,000 for renovations to the county courthouse and district attorney’s office. This is a new request.

• The Commission approved three personnel changes recommended by former County Manger Geneva Cooper.
Among the changes, Penny Phillips moves from account payable clerk to payroll/finance clerk.

Pyle moves from executive administrative assistant/indigent specialist to indigent administrator/safety and emergency management coordinator.

Pyle inherits duties left behind by Cooper and Jimmy Dunn, assistant county manager who retires this month.
Commission Chairperson Kathrynn Tate said the changes will remain in place when new County Manager Dick Smith takes over Jan. 3.

• The Commission agreed to fund a renovation in the district attorney’s office. District Attorney Matt Chandler said a new¡ lawyer has been hired, creating the need for another office.