The addition of a Municipal Infrastructure Growth Receipts Tax to the city’s current gross receipt tax is an essential element to Roswell’s future success, according to Mayor Del Jurney. Jurney is reintroducing the proposal for the additional tax, which has not passed in the past two attempts.
“It’s not all about today. It’s about five years from now, ten years from now, fifteen years from now. This investment in the community, that we’re asking the citizens to make, is going to be as important as the investment that they made back in the 1940s when they purchased water rights,” Jurney said.
The addition of the GRT would result in an increase of the city’s current gross receipts tax, which would shift from 7.125 percent to 7.25 percent or 12.5 cents for every $100 spent. It would apply to all taxable goods, excluding food or medicine, and is projected to create revenues of $1.2 million annually. If the initiative is passed, the GRT would go into effect July 1 2012.
A committee of 13 members of the community has been created to establish strategies, campaign information and specifically the ways to best communicate the merit of the tax effectively to the public. The committee was self-constituted, according to Jurney. Starting from a conversation with committee members Jeff Smith and Bobby Villegas about the merit of the tax initiative, Jurney said names for the committee began to surface from these talks. Once these names surfaced Jurney talked to the individuals personally.
The members of the GRT committee are as follow: Michael Trujillo, former county commissioner and president of El Charro Mexican Foods; Bruce Ellis, owner of the Roswell Lumber Do-It Center; Brooke Linthicum, marketing director at Eastern New Mexico Medical Center; Juan Oropesa, executive director at the Roswell Hispano Chamber of Commerce; Oscar Gonzalez, retired New Mexico State Police Captain; Jeff Smith, CEO of PrimeSource Mortgage Inc.; Amarante Fresquez, Roswell city councilor; Bobby Villegas, agent at R.G. Bobby Villegas Insurance; Kay Rogers, co-owner of Roswell Livestock and Farm Supply; Lee Rogers, attorney at Atwood Malone Turner & Sabin, PA; Rev. Landjur Abukusumo, pastor at Washington Chapel Christian Worship Center; Cheryle Pattison, assoc. broker at Remax of Roswell; Michael Vickers, city planner, and Bob Donnell, executive director of the Roswell-Chaves County Economic Development Corporation.
The Roswell City Council approved an amended ordinance regarding the city’s Economic Development Plan, and specifically the GRT, to be advertised for a public hearing, on Oct. 24 during a special city council meeting. The creation of the amended ordinance was a collaborative effort between the GRT committee, the Roswell-Chaves County Economic Development Corporation and the city council, according to Jurney.
The characteristics of the City of Roswell Economic Development Project Review Committee were also delineated in the ordinance. The committee, made up of seven members appointed by the mayor with the consent of the governing body, would further review the applicant’s business development findings provided by the Economic Development Contractor. The committee, “should reflect the racial, ethnic and cultural diversity of the city of Roswell and Chaves County,”according to the amended ordinance.
Jurney said these qualifications are not an absolute but rather a desire and a direction for the good of the community. “It’s an effort to make sure the community as a whole is invited to participate in something as significant as what this tax will allow the city to do. [We] put that in there so future governing bodies will have some ideas as to what the original desire was, and that is, that it is a community effort to bring a real positive to Roswell,” he said.
In their November meeting, city councilors will vote to approve, or deny, the ordinance for the GRT. The next step would be a resolution to the council to put the tax on the ballot for the March election, along with the five city council and municipal judge positions.
Jurney indicated that Roswell’s current status as the ninth largest city in the state, when it comes to per capita, GRT inhibits the city from providing the things that the future of Roswell is going to require. According to Jurney, Roswell is substantially behind smaller communities when it comes to revenues gained from GRT. He said Hobbs generated revenues in the amount of $40 million from its GRT last year. Roswell’s current revenues from its GRT are around $28 million, Jurney said.
“We have to have sustainability to be able to provide and maintain a quality of life and that sustainability comes from the revenues that the city generates. And the revenues that the city generates come from the wealth of the community,”Jurney said, adding, “People think that Roswell is not utilizing its funds properly. The fact of the matter is we don’t have a lot of funds to utilize.”
Emphasizing the tax creates an economic development environment that would attract businesses to the city, Jurney said those businesses would generate more money into the community.
“Economists will tell you it (money) rolls seven or eight times in a community. That’s what creates a larger gross receipts tax revenue for the city. For one eighth of one percent (the amount that would be added to the current GRT) we can create, if we do this right, a huge amount of economic value to the city that we then turn around and are able to better support the services the city provides,” Jurney said.
Jurney stressed that the city would be transparent in its handling of the revenues generated from the increased GRT, if the initiative is passed. “Once the tax passes and a request for the utilization of the money is made, it goes through a preliminary review, it goes to the Gross Receipts Tax committee then to the city council to be advertised for a public hearing. For 30 days we’ll have workshops, that will be open scrutinized, before it goes back to city council for a decision. So these are not things that happen in the dark of night. They’re things that happen in the public,” he said.
New Mexico state statute defines how revenues gained from the proposed tax can be used. Economic development issues, assisting a company in relocation and providing some cash for start-up costs, are among the possible uses. The Roswell City Council would ultimately decide how the generated revenues would be spent.
“I want our tax dollars to benefit and enhance the assets of our own properties. I want our own tax dollars to increase our own assets,” he said, adding, “The council in a public setting will make the decision of what projects are approved and which ones are not.”
Focusing on the Roswell Industrial Air Center, Jurney said the city needs to capitalize on its assets. Specifically, he said the city needs to put the air center into a condition where it can attract aviation-based jobs. Recently, Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell rewrote its curriculum for the certification period for A&P mechanics. The revised curriculum enables students to complete the requirements for a Certificate of Completion in only 14.5 months. Jurney said he wants to ensure those students have a place to work when they graduate. He cited the air center as that place.
“We need to offer good jobs to the people who live in Roswell, so we can feel better about who we are as a community. So we can start to climb that ladder of prosperity in the state of New Mexico rather than be a poor city in a poor state. That just is unacceptable to me,” Jurney said.