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County approves ‘best guess’ interim budget

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Submitted Graphic / Chaves County

The interim fiscal year 2021 budget approved by the Chaves County Board of Commissioners includes money to the city of Roswell for joint city-county projects and for emergency services.

Following a workshop May 14, the commissioners voted 5-0 Thursday to pass an interim budget for the fiscal year that runs from July 1 to June 30, 2021.

The budget now will be submitted for review to the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration. A final budget is typically passed in the summer, with mid-year adjustments often made in December or January.

“This is about the best guess anybody can come up with,” said Commissioner Robert Corn. “We are going to have to be addressing this more during the interim than for the seven years I have sat on the county commission because it is all unknown.”

Some of the uncertainty has to do with coronavirus impacts and oil and gas activity, which affect tax revenues, but Corn and Commissioner T. Calder Ezzell said it also has to do with the way that the state provides gross receipts taxes to the county. Ezzell called it an “exceptionally frustrating” system where money arrives without adequate information.

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As adopted, the interim county budget includes general operating revenues of $26.77 million, with the vast majority of that coming from property and other types of taxes, including federal payments in lieu of taxes (PILT), paid by U.S. government agencies for federal lands within the county.

Operating expenses are $26.64 million. The Roads Department, Sheriff’s Department and the Chaves County Detention Center represent 69% of that amount.

The total budget, including reserves and non-recurring items, includes $47.31 million in revenues and $51.1 million in expenses. Chief Financial Officer Joe Sedillo has said the county is expecting to cover the gap with reserves and other funds if needed.

In addition to $1.5 million for roofing, a chiller and an upgrade to a section of the Chaves County Administrative Center, the budget includes funding to several outside entities. That includes $150,000 to the Roswell-Chaves County Economic Development Corp. and $57,500 to the Roswell Chamber of Commerce.

Funding for the Roswell Hispano Chamber of Commerce will be decided later in the year after the organization provides additional documentation.

“We are going to resubmit as requested in December by the chairman of the commission,” said Executive Director Marcos Nava.

He added that the group already produces monthly financial statements and will have them audited to present a financial report to the county when it makes its second submission. The Hispano Chamber’s initial request was for $19,500.

As part of its emergency funds, the county is providing $45,000 to the city of Roswell for ambulance and rescue services. It is also contributing $600,000 to the Pecos Valley Regional Communications Center, the primary emergency dispatch operation for the area. Another $35,000 has been budgeted for joint emergency preparedness activities.

Similarly, Lake Arthur, Dexter and Hagerman have been allocated $17,500 each for their public safety operations.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.