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Artesia’s sales tax rate will jump from 7.8125 to 8.1458 percent effective Jan. 1, 2018

 

The Eddy County Commission voted this morning to approve all three of its proposed Gross Receipts Tax (GRT) increases.

With that, effective Jan. 1, 2018, Artesia’s local GRT rate will increase from 7.8125 percent to 8.1458, the fifth-highest rate in Southern New Mexico.

The commission made its decisions following an at-times prickly debate.

The least-contentious of the three ordinances — a 1/12 of 1 percent increase to aid the county with Safety Net Care Pool payments previously funded by the State of New Mexico — passed with little objection.

The remaining two ordinances amounted to a total 2/8 of 1 percent increase to the GRT, 1/8 to add funding to the Eddy County Detention Center and 1/8 for the General Fund to be used at the county’s discretion. Eddy County Manager Rick Rudometkin indicated the primary motivation for the increase involved funding needs for road improvements, facilities maintenance, and the Eddy County Sheriff’s Office.

Artesia Mayor Phillip Burch and Commissioner Jon Henry of Artesia both expressed belief the board has not done enough to inform both its municipalities and citizens of precisely why the funds are needed and for what they would be used.

Burch pointed out city governments were not invited to the table during county budget planning, nor were any town halls held in Artesia or Carlsbad. He urged the commission to postpone its votes on the proposed 2/8 in order to allow time for such actions to be taken.

Henry seconded that, telling the commission that, with the tax hikes not taking effect till January, there was no rush to pass the increases today. He stated it is the “duty” of the commission to ensure citizens are as informed as possible when it comes to raising their taxes.

Commission Chairman Stella Davis responded by stating the commission had “explained itself to death” in 2015 when it sought to implement all 3/8 of the state’s allowable hold-harmless GRT increases. It ultimately, in the face of significant public backlash, opted to enact only 1/8.

Two residents of Artesia and one of Carlsbad also spoke during the public hearings, saying they were concerned with the lack of representation regarding the need for today’s tax increases and asking the commission to take the time to better educate the public before taking action.

County department heads and one Carlsbad resident said the funds were needed and urged the commission to pass the increases.

Additional details will be published in Friday’s edition of the Daily Press.