AZTEC — The San Juan County Commission unanimously passed two resolutions at Tuesday evening's meeting that are critical of state and federal policies that will reduce annual payments and tax revenue from county coffers, potentially leading to cuts in services or increased taxes.
San Juan County officials said the county's Payment in Lieu of Taxes, or PILT, payment for 2014 is uncertain.
The federal government provides counties throughout the country with PILT payments to compensate local governments for having federal land within its borders because the governments don't collect property taxes from that land.
County Operations Officer Mike Stark said 25 percent of San Juan County's land is federal land. The county, in recent years, has received more than $2 million per year in PILT money, he said.
But funding for the PILT program has not been reauthorized for the federal government's 2014 fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior's website.
The county's resolution states that PILT money has become a critical part of the government's budget and asks for a swift passage of legislation to continue the program.
San Juan County officials said the commission's resolution is one of many that local government boards nationwide have issued that express concern over the PILT program.
"We're not alone in our concern. Our concern is shared by quite a few counties," Stark said. "This is big deal for local governments nationwide."
The commission's resolution directed at state policies addressed the change to "hold-harmless" payments and the redirection of a county-imposed gross receipts tax.
"Hold-harmless" payments are awarded to counties in exchange for not collecting sales tax on food and medicine.
San Juan County Executive Officer Kim Carpenter previously said the county receives about $2.4 million per year in "hold-harmless" payments. But a law passed in the legislature in 2013 called for those payments to be phased out over the next 15 years.
"It's the counties coming together and saying "Look, state, don't redirect our county money that we use to fulfill our constitutional obligations because we still have our obligations," San Juan County Commission Chairman Jack Fortner said of the resolution. "If you need money, either redirect your money or raise taxes, but don't expect us to do that. Hopefully, somebody in Santa Fe gets the message. They can't take our money, redirect it and give us nothing."
The commission's state-directed resolution also mentions a proposal to take a county gross receipts tax to help pay for Centennial Care, New Mexico's Medicaid program.
The threatened tax is a one-eighth of 1 percent gross receipts tax used to fund the indigent program since voters approved the tax in 1989.
The tax is expected to generate about $4.5 million in the 2014 fiscal year. The money helps pay for care indigent people received at San Juan Regional Medical Center's Emergency Medical Services; Childhaven; Presbyterian Medical Services/Farmington Community Health Center; San Juan Home Health; Northwest New Mexico Hospice; Family Crisis Center, Bloomfield Nursing and Rehab; San Juan Rehabilitation Hospital; San Juan County DWI and Meth Treatment Facilities' Four Winds Recovery Center; and PMS/Totah Behavioral Health Authority. San Juan Regional Medical Center also receives funds to care for indigent people.
The resolution passed Tuesday said the county is against any state policy "that would require the County Commission to be forced to consider the additional implementation of local taxes."
"This has to be a really strong statement from us, because we do not support raising taxes," Commissioner Margaret McDaniel said. "We're going to be making cuts everywhere because we are not going to be raising taxes."Ryan Boetel covers crime for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @rboetel on Twitter.