County Commission votes against tax repeal

Hannah Grover
Megan Oller, an assistant engineer associate with Western Solutions Inc., measures water flowing out of Gold King Mine on Aug. 10, 2015.

AZTEC – San Juan County commissioners voted against repealing a 1/16th of 1 percent gross receipts tax and voted in favor of making a 1/8th of 1 percent gross receipts tax permanent during a meeting Tuesday evening.

The 1/16th of 1 percent gross receipts tax is scheduled to sunset, or no longer be in effect, at the end of the year.

Commissioner Jack Fortner proposed repealing the tax early in January, but voted against the repeal during Tuesday's meeting. He explained that he is concerned about the county's finances, especially in light of learning about the possibility of New Mexico State Parks shrinking the boundaries at Navajo Lake State Park, which could force the San Juan County Sheriff's Office to patrol additional land. San Juan County Undersheriff Shane Ferrari told commissioners about the potential change in boundaries during a meeting March 1.

While Fortner voted against repealing the tax early, he also voted against making the 1/8th of one percent gross receipts tax permanent. The tax was scheduled to sunset at the end of 2017. Commission voted in favor of repealing the sunset, which would make the tax permanent.

"It's too early to decide," Fortner said after the meeting.

At the end of the meeting, County Executive Officer Kim Carpenter updated commissioners on the effects of the Gold King Mine spill. He said the county has sent a team to Colorado to take water samples, and heavy concentrations of aluminum and lead have been found.

"Whether or not we see those levels down here has yet to be seen," he said.

The county and local municipalities are monitoring the levels of heavy metals in the water in case there is a spike in contaminant levels during the spring runoff.

Mike Stark, the county project manager, also updated the commission about the results of the capital outlay funding from the state.

The county received $3 million to extend the city of Farmington sewer line to Flora Vista. While the $3 million is a step forward, Stark said the county still needs an additional $6 million for the project. After the meeting, Stark said the county is looking into additional funding sources and likely will include the project in future capital outlay requests to state lawmakers.

The $3 million that was approved will extend the sewer line from Farmington and tie in 250 houses in Flora Vista primarily south of N.M. Highway 516 and east of County Road 350.

"That's kind of the area of the most need," Stark said.

Fortner, who represents the Flora Vista area, said the sewer line extension will help economic development because people and businesses will be more likely to build in Flora Vista if there is a sewer system.

While the $3 million represents one-third of the money the county needs for the project, residents will not likely see construction on the sewer line until the county secures more funding.

Stark said the New Mexico Environment Department does not want the county to begin the project without the ability to build the services lines.

"What they don't want to happen is for us to build a sewer line to nowhere," Stark said.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.