Tax ordinance to go to vote

CNJ staff photo: Kevin Wilson City Clerk LeighAnn Melancon said the city verified enough signatures to force a special election on a .25 percent gross receipts tax increase. The election would be May 3, pending city commission approval.

Kevin Wilson

An ordinance approved by the Clovis City Commission to raise gross receipts taxes will now go to voters instead.

The commission will hold a special meeting 5:15 p.m. Thursday at the north annex of the Clovis-Carver Public Library for a resolution to hold a special election May 3.

The High Plains Patriots citizen group filed approximately 1,000 signatures Monday with the city, requesting the referendum on the commission’s decision to approve an ordinance for a .25 percent gross receipts tax increase.

City Clerk LeighAnn Melancon said the city stopped counting after comparing 749 signatures against voter rolls. Of those, 583 were valid signatures, coming from registered voters inside city limits.

Only 456 signatures were required by city code — representative of 20 percent of ballots cast in the 2010 municipal election.

“We’re looking forward to moving on and let the voters vote on this,” Patriots President Kim Runyan said Monday. “That was our whole purpose, to allow the Clovis voters to decide if they want to pay more gross receipts tax. Clearly, we got the signatures that they want to vote on it. They’re not saying they’re going to vote yes or no, but we got the signatures that they want to vote.”

City Commissioner Randy Crowder said he is concerned because the meeting’s agenda calls for a $30,000 budget transfer to pay for the election. He’d like to schedule a later election that could coincide with another previously-scheduled election to save costs.

However, the city charter does not allow for exceptions on special elections. Section 8-2A of the city code states that if a successful petition is filed “the ordinance shall become ineffective and the Commission shall provide for an election on the measure within sixty days of the filing of the petition.”

The deadline for the election is May 6.

Crowder said he has always talked with city personnel about matters of procedure, and is wondering if a motion for reconsideration (of the vote), or another maneuver, could accomplish those ends.

“If it will save the citizens money,” Crowder said, “and the time when you collect the tax is changed by very little, that seems like a prudent move.”

Clovis’ current GRT rate is 7.5625 percent, and would jump to 7.8125 percent on July 1 under the ordinance, approved Feb. 3 in a 7-1 vote. The ordinance is set to expire 10 years later, and the increase in taxes would provide about $1.5 million annually to help pay for a $13 million portion of the city’s financial obligation for the $500 million Ute Water Project. The city’s total obligation is $36 million, but the remainder would be made up by water sales.

The ballot must contain the text of the ordinance, with the choices “For the above measure” or “Against the above measure.”

Also according to city code, the ordinance is ineffective — a moot point, considering the effective date falls after the special election.