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Valencia County is moving to higher tax

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Starting in July, Valencia County residents will probably see a small increase in the gross receipts taxes they pay on purchases made in the unincorporated areas of the county.

After months of discussion, county commissioners are preparing to bring back a gross receipts tax to support the operations of the county jail. Commissioners last month voted 4-0 to move ahead with publication of the tax ordinance. Commissioner Alicia Aguilar was not at that meeting.

According to the legal notice published in the News-Bulletin on Dec. 19, the ordinance will go before the commissioners for a public hearing on Jan. 8 and again on Jan. 15 for a final decision. Both meetings are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. and will be held at the commission chambers, 444 Luna Ave. in Los Lunas.

“We have talked several times about the very urgent need to reinstate the correctional GRT,” Commissioner Mary Andersen said. “We are losing $1.5 million a year that was dedicated to the operations of the facility.”

The county jail’s annual budget is more than $3 million and comes directly from the county’s general fund.

“That is money that should be going into equipment for roads, road improvements and salaries for employees; our employees haven’t had a raise in two years,” Andersen said. “We need this. If we don’t, we won’t be able to balance the budget and we’re looking at staff cuts. We have a very small pot of money we have to spread a long, long way.”

The jail tax being proposed is one-eighth of a cent, adding eight cents to every $100 spent in the unincorporated part of the county that is subject to gross receipts tax. Food and most prescription medications are not subject to GRT.

Commission Chairman Charles Eaton, who seconded Andersen’s motion to publish the ordinance, said in 2010 the county paid out more than $1.3 million to house inmates outside Valencia County.

If the ordinance is approved on Jan. 15, then the public has 60 days to respond by gathering signatures on a petition to take the question to a public vote. The petition needs to have signatures of 5 percent of the voters registered as of the last general election; that is 2,175 signatures. If the petition has the required number of qualified signatures, the county must hold a special election on the tax.

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