Rio Arriba County’s budget for the new fiscal year avoids any major cuts to public services or employees’ hours and pay because of a windfall from a major solar energy development.
County Commissioners approved the $32.6 million Fiscal Year 2021 budget in a July 28 meeting.
Overall revenue for the County is projected to decrease by 13 percent from the previous fiscal year, when it totaled $37 million, according to County budget records.
The shortage of funds could have been much greater––revenue from oil and gas, because of stalled production, is down $1.2 million, Campos said.
County Finance Director Christine Montaño wrote in a Monday email that oil and gas revenue usually makes up 20 percent of the County budget.
But the County made a deal with the Chicago-based energy company Hecate Energy around the construction of a solar array on the Jicarilla Apache Nation, and through that agreement, the County will receive $800,000 in two installments, one in August and one in February 2021.
“The payment in lieu of taxes is really timely because it helps us with our budget,” said County Economic Development Director Christopher Madrid in a June 26 phone call.
Montaño wrote that the County has seen “a slight turn down” in Gross Receipts Tax.
Campos expressed frustration about a lack of information around where those taxes are going and why.
“The fact is, we should have had an increase, but we didn’t experience an increase,” he said.
He said he recently saw a receipt for an online order placed in Española to a store in Georgia, with the taxes going to Albuquerque.
When he tries to talk to the New Mexico Department of Taxation and Revenue, he said, he gets no answers.
Madrid echoed Campos’ concern in a Monday phone call.
“We see parking lots full, and we don’t see our taxes going up,” he said.
Campos and Montaño have been rearranging funds within the budget to account for the $400,000 of missing oil and gas revenue that the money from the solar deal will not cover, Campos said.
The County will not need to spend as much on road maintenance this year, for instance, because of the bond passed in November that will cover some of that maintenance.
Some funds are also opening up to fix emergency infrastructure throughout the County: in May, County officials announced that they will allocate $650,000, instead of the $900,000 they had been paying, to the Española/Rio Arriba E911 Center. Those funds come from a County emergency services tax, and Campos said the County plans to use the remaining $250,000 to fix 911 infrastructure in the County.
Because the County has pulled the funds, however, the five entities that contribute to the Center will all need to up their contributions. The County, for instance, will go from paying the $15,500 it paid on top of the tax contribution to paying $91,449.
The County’s 2020-2021 General Fund expenses total around $14 million.
The lion’s share of the expenses come from Commission-related costs, at $2.6 million; Sheriff’s Department costs, at $2 million; the Manager’s Department costs at $1.8 million; Building Maintenance at $1.4 million; and the Assessor’s expenses at around $1 million.
Then Finance Department’s expenses reach $936,00; Fleet Maintenance $586,300; the Treasurer’s Department $490,500; Planning and Zoning $463,800; the Bureau of Election $411,000; the County Clerk’s Department $352,700; Health and Human Services $351,200; and Parks and Recreation $306,200.
The least expenses departments are Animal Control at $210,600; Public Works at $171,200; Human Resource at $164,200; Fire Protection at $128,600; Public Safety at $116,200; grants at $100,000; the Risk Management Department at $84,000; the Piñon Hills Operation at $44,900; Water Policy at $40,000; the Probate Judge at $31,700; and the Alcalde Center at $12,500.