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BernCo looks at how to spend new money for open space

The city of Albuquerque is debating how to spend the last of its money for open space acquisition.

Bernalillo County, meanwhile, is in the opposite position – just now deciding how to spend some new revenue flowing in for open space.

In 2014, county voters adopted a property tax that raises about $2.7 million a year. But it didn’t make it onto tax bills until 2015, so the county is just now starting to see the money.

The County Commission agreed last week to split the money between two purposes: Half of the revenue will go toward acquiring new lands for preservation and half will go toward improving and maintaining property the county already owns.

The 15-year tax won approval from 72 percent of voters two years ago. It can be used only for open space.

The county maintains roughly 1,000 acres of its own open space now and has helped preserve another 715 acres managed by other agencies.

Shelter on hold

Bernalillo County’s effort to build its own animal shelter is on hold for now.

Voters approved about $4.5 million in bonds for the idea in 2014, but that turned out not to be enough money, county spokesman Larry Gallegos said. The bids to build a shelter came in higher than expected, he said.

The county may ask voters for more money – Gallegos wasn’t sure how much – in the next bond cycle, due before voters in November.

The commission hasn’t settled yet on what projects it will propose for bond funding this year.

Mayor hobbled

Mayor Richard Berry – who competed in the decathlon as a student at the University of New Mexico – is hobbling around on crutches this month.

He had surgery recently to repair a knee that’s been giving him trouble after he stepped off a curb awkwardly.

IRB changes?

County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley says she may push for some changes to the county’s economic-development policies.

The commission has become a leader in issuing industrial revenue bonds for firms investing in Albuquerque to expand their operations here. The bond deals typically include some tax breaks and reduce a company’s borrowing costs.

The potential for policy changes came up last week when commissioners heard a presentation about General Mills’ application for $80 million in industrial revenue bonds to expands its Albuquerque plant.

O’Malley said she plans to propose that General Mills be required to give a preference to local contractors who compete to handle the work.

She also broached the idea of changes to the broader IRB policies.

O’Malley said she doesn’t want to erode the county’s tax base without assurances that it will help the local economy.

Dan McKay: dmckay@abqjournal.com.

 

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