Capital outlay give and take process

Construction crews with LCI 2 Inc. dig the new lagoon Tuesday at the city’s wastewater treatment plant in Clovis. The state Legislature allocated $1.4 million in capital outlay funds for the project. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

Year after year, local officials approach state legislators with palms outstretched, in aspiration that they will be stuffed with the money needed to jump-start projects, or finally complete those in limbo.

That tradition continued this year at the brink of the 30-day Legislative session, but on an elephant’s scale, with the promise of revenue windfalls enticing everyone to ask for more.

“There was an indication this year that there would be an awful lot of one time money, so most municipalities did request full funding for most of their projects,” Clovis City Manager Joe Thomas said.

But the majority of capital outlay requests in Curry County and Clovis were sliced down by legislators, and local entities were allotted only small portions of what they requested.

And even the pared down allocations run over.

Legislators had to sift through more than $6 billion in statewide capital outlay requests, and the funds which have been tentatively promised run $140 million over budget, making cuts by the governor probable, according to Rep. Anna Crook, R-Clovis, a member of the capital outlay committee. The governor wields the power to swipe projects off the list entirely, and he has done so in the past.

Even in years devoid of revenue windfalls, capital outlay requests are generally inflated, according to legislators and officials.

So many Clovis and Curry County officials are not crestfallen when their requests are severely abbreviated.

“You don’t often get what you ask for,” said Curry County Manager Dick Smith, “you work with what you get.”

The Clovis Municipal School District, for instance, requested $2 million for the construction of a new arts center on the Bella Vista Elementary campus. They received $100,000.

“We didn’t think legislators would have given us the whole $2 million in one year,” Clovis Municipal Schools Superintendent Rhonda Seidenwurm said.

Rather than disappointed, Seidenwurm is pleased. She said she will simply continue to request state funds to complete the project.

“This is a three-year project. Now, we can get started on it,” she said. “We can pay for the architectural fees, drawing fees, and such.”

Her response is typical.

The county hatched plans to build a special event center more than three decades ago, but has consistently fallen short of the funds necessary to complete the project. They should receive about a $1.85 million for the center, but they requested nearly $1 million more, Smith said.

“I’m happy with what we got … We just won’t get to do quite as many things as we would have liked,” Smith said, citing a planned RV park as one luxury now deleted from the proposed center.

Through trial and error, officials said they learned that in order for projects to be completed, they need to be approached in phases.

That approach, however, may not be the best, according to Crook.

“You know, I truly wish that they (the community) … would concentrate on one or two major projects and be able to complete them,” Crook said.

Local officials from three departments, the county, the city, and the Curry County/Clovis Chamber of Commerce, drummed up about 15 separate project funding requests during for the 2006 legislative session.

“You really can’t do justice to that many projects,” Crook said.