There must be a real shift in our thinking. Criterion measuring the success of change is simple: Change must only increase service to taxpayers or reduce costs. Apply this criterion to the current Rio Rancho City Council.
The current budget is essentially still that of the former council. Aside from impact fee adjustments, we have not seen a real change in terms government structure or tax base management. We all know voters turned down a proposal, backed by our mayor, to issue general obligation bonds to fund road rehabilitation. The bond was turned down because of the shift by the administration to new construction versus real rehabilitation. Current property owners were not receiving value for money spent.
Streets and utilities were, and continue to be, neglected. The council laid the foundation for some basic adjustments. One change should be using recurring revenues to fund recurring costs.
Another change already under way is the restructuring of the debt. Good job here. Debt increases over the last few years are the bane of our existence now.
There are some decisions here that are less appealing. These changes move us away from a crisis management paradigm. Taxes and fees increase time and time again. As long as I have been a resident of Rio Rancho, I have never seen my taxes or fees go down. This is one of the major causes of the decline in Rio Rancho. We still have a significant number of homes in foreclosure. It is quite the eye-opening experience to see the city as the plaintiff in Special Assessment District foreclosures.
The priorities of previous councils were more rooftops. That unbalanced propensity to provide incentives to developers is exactly the source of the problem. Forever the measure of success has been the new homes constructed. One-time revenue is what fed the monster.
We always heard retailers with their gross receipts would show up in droves. In fact, we bet the ranch on it. Yet here we sit on a losing bet. Many of those rooftops have been foreclosed upon and they sit empty. So what to do?
We need more revenue to cover the infrastructure currently in place. I say we need five things:
1) Annex west of the city,
2) Restructure the agreements with the hospitals,
3) Get out of the regional transportation tax,
4) Take another hard look at the desalination plant previously proposed by Sandoval County, and
5) Measure and publish the recurring costs versus recurring revenue.
Todd Hathorne, a mortgage loan officer and former member of the Sandoval County Planning and Zoning Commission, was a candidate for Rio Rancho City Council in 2010, 2008 and 2004.
— This article appeared on page 27 of the Albuquerque Journal