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Rio Rancho council nixes GO bond ballot question

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Rio Rancho residents will not have to weigh the pros and cons of raising property tax  to fix city streets when they go to the polls in March.

An increase in gross receipts taxes is also out of the question, for now.

A majority of city councilors this week rejected a resolution that would have put a question on the ballot asking for approval to issue $8 million in general obligation bonds to raise money for roads and possibly public safety and park uses.

And resolutions that would have raised gross receipts taxes, by a quarter-cent and one-eighth-of-a-cent respectively, died for lack of a motion.

While councilors generally agreed that the city’s roads need repairs, they were more immediately concerned about the impact a tax hike would have on residents.

“I don’t see enough benefit to put the strain on citizens during this recession,” said Councilor Chuck Wilkins.

Councilor Tim Crum called it “morally wrong.” He said he wants the city to reduce debt, not incur more.

Councilor Patty Thomas pointed out that the resolution wasn’t increasing taxes it was seeking to put a question on the ballot asking voters to show their preference.

Mayor Tom Swisstack took up the morality theme. “I believe it’s unethical or immoral not to giver voters a chance to vote on this,” Swisstack said.

Swisstack has argued Rio Rancho is one of the few cities that doesn’t have a bond cycle to generate revenue for public projects.

Procedural confusion arose over the vote, which at first appeared to support the bond. Councilor Tamara Gutierrez moved to approve one of three options listed under the bond resolution. Gutierrez, Thomas and Councilor Mark Scott voted in favor. Wilkins, Crum and Councilor Lonnie Clayton voted against. Swisstack broke the tie voting yes.

Swisstack started to proceed with the next agenda item but Scott pointed out they hadn’t voted on the main resolution. City Clerk Steve Ruger advised them they had to do so.

When voting on the main resolution, Scott switched positions and voted against the bonds, making it a 4-2 vote against. Later he said he knew that the council had to get the option out of the way first before they could vote on the resolution. He said he was against the bonds all along.

“Now is not the time,” Scott said.

 

 

 

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