Clovis ranked among lowest for tax burdens

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

A New Mexico think tanks says, comparatively speaking, living in Clovis just isn’t that taxing.

The Rio Grande Foundation has ranked Clovis as the third-best city for lowest tax burdens among New Mexico’s 10 most populous cities.

The study, also performed in 2007, looks at both property and gross receipts taxes in respect to population and per capita personal income, and comes out with a tax burden as a percentage of income.

According to 2008 figures used by the foundation, Clovis has a total average tax burden of $2,133 ($756 property, $1,377 gross receipts) and a per capita income of $30,774. That gives Clovis a tax burden of 7.24 percent of income.

With no tax increases between 2007 and 2008, Hobbs kept its status as the most tax-friendly city with a tax burden of 6.11 percent. Albuquerque had the highest tax burden on the list, 11.37 percent.

Rio Grande Foundation President Paul Gessing said most of the disparities come down to the amount of bonds voters approve for city projects.

For example, Albuquerque citizens voted for $351 million in bonds in 2006 for renovations for Albuquerque Public Schools campuses. That’s part of the reason for the median property tax burden of $2,364, nearly three times the figure for Clovis.

“They don’t really view them as tax ballot measures, but they are taxes and you have to pay them off over time,” Gessing said. “That’s really where Albuquerque gets slammed. They face dramatically higher property taxes than the rest of the state.”

With a population of 32,352, Clovis is eighth in population among New Mexico cities. The three tax-friendliest cities — Hobbs, Carlsbad and Clovis — were three of the four smallest populations in the survey.

Though he couldn’t speak for every citizen, Gessing said the inverse relationship between tax friendliness and population is that people who choose to live in smaller cities are more likely to want government to leave them alone.

Meanwhile, people who move to bigger cities partially do so for the benefits bigger tax bases provide.

“There are clearly more services you get in an Albuquerque than in a smaller city,” Gessing said. “You see the same thing at the national level.”

Chase Gentry, executive director of the Clovis Industrial Development Corporation, said he often cites tax friendliness when in competition with Lubbock or Amarillo for industries.

“A lot of times the gross receipts tax doesn’t affect a corporation,” Gentry said, “but it affects the people who will come to work here.”

Though the study may not directly apply to Clovis’ efforts, the principles of big-city versus small-city taxes apply.

“We don’t see that state border,” Gentry said. “A lot of the projects we’re involved in, we’re up against west Texas”