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Doña Ana to vote on revised tax-spending plan

LAS CRUCES — After tensions flared last week over how to budget dollars for a recently approved sales tax, Doña Ana County commissioners will vote Tuesday on a revised proposal directing spending of the money.

How to allocate the dollars within the county’s 2015-16 budget became a major point of contention in an April 21 county commission work session. County Sheriff Enrique “Kiki” Vigil said he was “outraged” over a plan that, via accounting, would have allocated dollars from the new tax to the sheriff’s department while reducing revenues from the 2014-15 level — essentially keeping the department’s budget flat.

County staff and some commissioners, meanwhile, said the dollars removed from the sheriff’s department budget still would be available in the coming year for critical sheriff’s department needs, such as lagging salaries for deputies, a high departmental vacancy rate and replacing aging vehicles. However, they said, the shifted dollars would be allocated after key preliminary steps were made — such as union negotiations that are needed to adjust salaries and the completion of a salary study that will identify more precisely how far behind the pay levels are.

Commission Chairman Billy Garrett assured the sheriff’s department would have its needs met.

But County Commissioners Ben Rawson and Leticia Duarte-Benavidez expressed concerns about the proposed accounting for and spending of the new sales tax money.

In Tuesday’s meeting, Duarte-Benavidez is proposing to revise a plan for spending the new sales tax dollars, which was originally OK’d March 24, to clarify that the new tax dollars will be added to the various departmental budgets they’re meant to benefit and that no corresponding budget reductions will be made to the same departments. That includes the sheriff’s department, detention center and roads department, according to the proposal.

The new 3/8 of 1 percent sales tax is set to take effect July 1, the start of the county’s financial cycle, county officials have said.

Pet crematorium

Also, commissioners are scheduled to hear an appeal related to a zoning case for a proposed pet crematorium at an existing building, located at 4408 N.M. Hwy. 478 in Berino. The applicant is seeking a “Type 2 Planned Unit Development Overlay Zone.”

The county planning and zoning commission voted 4-2 on Feb. 26 to conditionally approve the zoning. The conditions were that the facility get approvals from the New Mexico Department of Transportation and the New Mexico Environment Department before submitting a final site plan and that the facility have a restriction on the size of animals that could be cremated. Large animals should be removed within hours and the furnace could operate only between 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on weekdays, according to county documents.

But a local resident appealed the decision to the county commission. Neighbors have expressed concerns about the possible smell a facility could generate and that property values could be affected. A potential benefit, meanwhile, is that the building would provide a useful service in the southern part of the county, according to county documents.

Planning commission appointments

In addition, county commissioners will appoint three members to serve two-year terms on the Doña Ana County Planning and Zoning Commission. According to county documents, the applicants are:

* Robert J. Czerniak, incumbent

* Greg T. Daviet, incumbent

* Maryann Galindo

* Mary Ann Hendrickson

* Carl Krause

* Natalie Mercado, incumbent

$15M incentive proposed

Commissioners will vote on publishing a notice of intent to OK $15 million to assist MCS Industries Inc. to “acquire land in the Santa Teresa industrial area and to construct a new facility for the distribution and manufacturing of framing and related projects.”

The bonds would “result in the retention of MCS operations in the county and the retention of 31 full-time jobs with an additional 12 full-time jobs within three years,” according to county documents.

Under the Industrial Revenue Bond model, the company — not the county — is responsible for repaying industrial revenue bonds. And the county holds assets as collateral until the bonds are repaid. County officials have said previously a key advantage to a new company in getting industrial revenue bonds is that it winds up paying less in taxes than it otherwise would without the bonds.

In the MCS Industries proposal, the company will pay yearly revenue to the county to make up for a portion of property taxes it would have paid if the bonds weren’t in place, according to documents.

Also Tuesday, commissioners will vote to select an elected official to represent Doña Ana County on the New Mexico Association of Counties board. The appointment is now held by County Assessor Andy Segovia, whose term is expiring. Ten county elected officials, not only county commissioners, are eligible to be nominated.

The Doña Ana County commission will meet 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Doña Ana County Government Center, 845 N. Motel Blvd., Las Cruces.


©2015 the Las Cruces Sun-News (Las Cruces, N.M.)

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