BERNALILLO — The end of the legislative session, as always, brings with it good news and bad news for the county.
That is particularly true of House Bill 641, according to Sandoval County lobbyist Lawrence Horan. He gave a report to the county commission Tuesday night.
“That was one of those bills that there was some good stuff in it that you liked, and some stuff in it that you didn’t like,” Horan said.
The bill will reduce the distribution of so-called “hold harmless” funds to the county and other government entities during a 15-year period starting in 2016.
The hold harmless funds have been handed out to governments to replace revenues taken away when New Mexico did away with taxes on food and medicine. For several years now, some members of the Legislature have pushed to put a stop to the hold harmless payments. And, for several years counties and cities such as Sandoval County have pushed back against that effort.
Along with removing that funding, however, the bill also helps ease the pain of losing the hold-harmless funds. It allows governments to increase gross receipts tax, or sales tax, by three-eighths of 1 percent for any general fund purpose without going to the voters for approval.
It also includes a package intended to attract business and spur economic development and related tax revenue through tax breaks for larger manufacturing companies. Horan said that will have a positive effect on local manufacturing, especially for the state’s larger companies, such as Intel.
For manufacturers making more than $1 million, the income tax rate will be reduced every year, going from 7.6 percent to 5.9 percent by 2018.
Commissioner Don Chapman said he wasn’t entirely clear on the details and how the change to the tax rate is going to affect the county, and he requested a full report.
In other county business, the commission approved a plan to borrow roughly $12.6 million from the New Mexico Finance Authority to expand the county landfill. The project includes moving PNM power lines to allow additional space at the site.
According to County Manager Phil Rios, the loan will allow the county to continue to operate its landfill for another eight years. According to discussion at the meeting, the landfill brings the county $2.4 million in revenue each year.
Commissioners also approved the purchase a brush truck, a pickup truck and four mini-pumpers for the county fire department. According to County Fire Chief James Maxon, the purchases will be made using a loan from New Mexico Finance Authority for $385,000.
The commission also approved the construction of a tire bale wall at the county fairgrounds in Cuba. The wall will cost about $147,500 and will be built by Rivercrest Construction. Most of the funding for the project comes from a $135,240 grant from the state economic development department. About $5,000 of that money was spent on designing costs, so the remaining cost, about $17,300, will be supplied by the county fairgroundS fund.
Commissioner Nora Scherzinger questioned Rivercrest’s ability to deliver at that cost, however, which is roughly $100,000 lower than the three other bids. She said she is concerned that the county will see a series of change orders come in and bump up the price.
That’s not going to happen, though, according to Donna Wylie, who presented the project. Wylie is the director of economic development and tourism for the county.
“They can do the job for that amount of money,” she said. “There will be no change orders.”
At the end of the meeting, commissioners met for a closed session for more than two hours to review personnel issues.