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Wrong time for new taxes, buying new county building

Shocked. Stunned. Surprised. Alarmed. Those were my reactions to the news that Bernalillo County is even considering a plan to purchase a new building for the purpose of “efficiency” and “consolidation.”

As you may have heard, the county is just coming out of what can only be characterized as a financial crisis. A crisis precipitated by the treasurer’s risky investments that resulted in a realized loss of approximately $17 million, and exacerbated by ongoing costs of overpopulation at the Metropolitan Detention Center.

A crisis that we were fortunate to get through with our AAA bond rating intact.

As a result, county departments have been asked to cut their budgets, which is one step closer to cutting services, fund balances are being scoured for any unspent funding, maintenance is being deferred, and pressure is being applied to find new sources of “revenue.”

From franchise taxes to impact fees, from inspection fees to taxes for open space, the county is looking for new and creative ways to make you pay for the financial bind it’s in. All at a time when property taxes have risen, while property values have declined, and the economy is still struggling.

At the June 10th Bernalillo County Commission meeting, I opposed placing a new voter-imposed tax to fund open space on the November ballot. If open space is a priority – and I believe it should be – then we should continue to fund it from of the general fund as we have for the previous eight years.

I was told that the county no longer has the money to continue funding $1.2 million for open space out of the general fund and that a new specialty tax would be needed. Property taxes are already a huge and increasing burden for homeowners and a new specialty tax would only free up general fund tax dollars for less-popular uses.

Now, miraculously, just days later, the county announces it is looking to spend millions of dollars acquiring a new building and millions more to move.

If the county can find millions of your dollars to spend on itself, it can certainly find $1.2 million of your money to spend on you for open space.

As a County Commission, we should not forget that we work for you, the taxpayer, and we should be good stewards of your tax dollars. The financial conversations that you are having over your kitchen table are the same type of conversations that Bernalillo County officials should be having, and we should always be mindful of the financial burden we place on your family.

For the county, gone are the days of vast reserves that “needed” to be spent down. Gone are the days of having $20 million available to spend on a building in the name of “consolidation” or “efficiency.”

And gone should be the days of building a new monument to Bernalillo County government on the backs of taxpayers