Special session may have big impact on county budget
AZTEC — As the county approved its interim budget, the commission chairman and the county executive officer warned that next week's special state legislative session could force drastic changes.
County commission approved the interim fiscal year 2018 budget during a commission meeting Tuesday evening. The budget projects about $93.7 million in revenue. The county is required to submit an interim budget to the state by June 1. Fiscal year 2018 will begin in July.
"This is really contingent on what the state does next week in their very special session," said Jack Fortner, the county commission chairman.
The special session begins Wednesday in Santa Fe, and one of the issues that will be considered is so-called "hold harmless payments," which are distributed to local governments in lieu of revenue previously received from food taxes, which were eliminated in 2004. The hold-harmless payments were intended to be phased out over 15 years.
Gov. Susana Martinez has said she will consider reinstating a food tax, which would eliminate the need for hold harmless payments.
At the end of Tuesday's meeting, county executive officer Kim Carpenter said the county could immediately lose $2 million if it is no longer able to receive hold harmless payments from the state. County officials are concerned that they would be required to lower taxes in order to collect food tax. Carpenter said the tax increment the county would have to repeal is currently bonded against.
He said there are some contingency plans if the county does lose the hold harmless payments and is unable to collect food tax. However, the county has struggled with the downturn in the economy. Carpenter said the county has frozen or eliminated between 50 and 60 jobs.
Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.