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Chaves County approves interim budget

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Pie Chart Graphic Courtesy Chaves County Finance Department

Taking a conservative approach regarding revenues and gross receipts income for the coming fiscal year, Chaves County has passed an interim budget with $26.55 million in operating revenues and $26.34 million in operating expenses.

The budget keeps the amount allocated to a local economic development group at only $25,000, an amount that had caused disappointment among the group’s leadership, as expressed during a May 9 budget workshop.

The Chaves County Commissioners voted for the interim 2019-20 budget during their Thursday meeting. The New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration will now review it. A final budget is typically voted on in July.

Commissioner Robert Corn, a member of the budget committee, indicated that the county is cautious regarding how much gross receipts taxes will come to the county for the 2019-20 fiscal year. GRTs are the county’s largest source of income.

“I note this latest check we got from the state is down a little bit. It is not enough to be alarmed, except we had experienced great growth in gross receipts and now it has kind of plateaued,” said Commissioner Robert Corn, who serves on the budget committee.

Finance Director Joe Sedillo explained that financial indicators from the state regarding activity in retail, construction, health services and hospitals and clinics show decreases from the previous year. Oil and gas remains a growth sector.

“We have a couple of caveats out there, and one of them will be the online sales, which could come in July. … That is an unknown X factor and we are hoping for the best on that,” he added.

Several commissioners made comments about the Roswell-Chaves County Economic Development Corp. allocation.

The current amount of $25,000 is a third of the $75,000 requested by the group and below the initial amount funded for 2018-19. It is also below the $57,500 allocated to the Roswell Chamber of Commerce for the coming year.

The EDC received $48,750 initially during the 2018-19 budget cycle, but then received an additional $25,000 later in the fiscal year to be used to help USA Beef Packing meet its requirements for Local Economic Development Act funds.

Commissioner T. Calder Ezzell Jr., another budget committee member, said that he has discussed the situation with EDC board members.

“The amount we have put in the budget is by no means capped there,” he said. “It wasn’t last year and I fully expect it not to be this year.”

He added that the group’s contract will expire June 30 and that EDC board chair Bud Kunkel has indicated a desire to wait to renegotiate the contract until the organization hires its new president. Current EDC President John Mulcahy has announced his resignation, effective June 1, and a search committee has been formed to seek a replacement.

“The door is completely open,” he said, “and (County Manager) Stan (Riggs) is going to start working on negotiating a new contract with the Roswell Chamber of Commerce, and once the Economic Development Corp has a new executive director, we will start negotiating a new contract with them. … We are definitely committed to supporting both the Chamber and Economic Development Corporation, and we will, but I don’t like working under expiring contracts.”

Commission Chair Will Cavin said the county and city of Roswell face a great opportunity with the Roswell International Air Center and the newly passed legislation to allow it to be part of a special economic district. The creation of that legislation was one of the projects spearheaded by the EDC.

“I am happy to say that I am on the search committee for the new EDC president and we are going to be looking for a go-getter and somebody who can get the job done,” Cavin said, “because if we get that job done, hold onto the reins because it is going to run.”

About 17 members of EDC were at the budget meeting when it first began, but they left without comment after the budget vote.

Kunkel later said, “We look forward to the contract negotiation and we are hopeful that we will receive additional funding after that process is complete.”

He added that it is crucial that the EDC, the county and city of Roswell work together on economic development for the area.

Following up with other concerns addressed during the budget workshop, Riggs said that the Sheriff’s Office has been able to purchase three new pickups using current fiscal year funds and some money provided by a state senator.

During the workshop, Sheriff Mike Herrington indicated that his department was down six vehicles because no new vehicles were purchased before he took office in January. The three new vehicles include two additional vehicles to the fleet and a replacement for a vehicle totaled in an accident in March.

Riggs also noted that the interim budget includes $15,000 to the city of Roswell to pay for euthanization of animals taken to the Roswell shelter by county animal control officers. Until a recent agreement was worked out between the city and the county, the county animal control officers were being asked to pick up animals that had not been adopted and pay for boarding, vet fees and euthanization fees. Now county officers can leave the animals at the shelter, with the city handling euthanization if needed.

Major revenue categories for the county include the following: property taxes, $9.06 million; payments in lieu of taxes, $3.45 million; road fund, $1.97 million; clerk recording fees, $65,000; property valuation, $310,000; detention gross receipts, $5.95 million; income fund, $1.85 million; and miscellaneous, $3.88 million.

The expenditures for the county can be broken down into eight categories: Chaves County Detention Center, $7.71 million; Road Department, $5.94 million; Sheriff, $4.89 million; general services, $3.87 million; facility maintenance, $1.49 million; Assessor, $1 million; Clerk, $958,921; and Treasurer, $471,842.

Total revenues from all income sources, which includes $1.28 million in reserves, is $42.49 million, which is also the amount of total expenditures, including capital projects and debt service payments.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.