Aztec and Bloomfield look at smaller budgets for the upcoming fiscal year

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BLOOMFIELD — Aztec and Bloomfield are looking at smaller budgets for fiscal year 2018 following decreases in gross receipts tax revenue.

Gross receipts tax revenue makes up most of the two municipalities' budgets. A decline in oil and gas production in the San Juan Basin led to a decrease in gross receipts tax revenue, which has hurt the state and county budgets as well as local cities.

During a City Commission meeting Tuesday, Aztec approved a $28.4 million budget. In contrast, last year the commission approved a $38 million budget for fiscal year 2017.

While the City Commission approved the budget, the special legislative session that began Wednesday could cause significant changes.

"Our budget could be altered by actions taken by the state Legislature," said Aztec City Manager Joshua Ray during the meeting.

He said if the Legislature approves reinstating the food tax, there could be significant changes to the city's budget. Ray said these changes could be either positive or negative.

The Bloomfield City Council is looking at a $12.7 million budget for fiscal year 2018 in contrast to the $13.5 million preliminary budget approved last year.

"I feel like we're at the bottom in terms of the gross receipts tax dropping," said Bloomfield Finance Director Brad Ellsworth. "But the question is will it go up.

Bloomfield City Manager Eric Strahl said if the gross receipts tax revenue improves in the upcoming fiscal year the city can use the revenue to build up the general fund and utility fund reserves.

Ellsworth said the city's bond rating was downgraded one grade this year because of Bloomfield's low reserves. 

During fiscal year 2017, Bloomfield was forced to lay off six full time employees and two part time employees. The city also cut employees' wages.

"We went through hell, especially with the layoffs," Ellsworth said.

The city's budget also proposes raising utility rates by more than 3 percent based on the average consumer price index over the past 100 years. Ellsworth said the average utility customer will see an increase of about $3.20 a month. This will generate about $104,000 annually, which will help pay for water projects including filtration at the treatment plant and repairing the eroding waterline between Aztec and Bloomfield, according to Strahl. 

"The utility fund needs to be beefed up to pay for future projects," said Mayor Scott Eckstein.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

 

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