A public hearing was held at the beginning of the Grant County Commission regular session Tuesday, July 24.
The hearing addressed the need for continuing a 1/8 percent increment for the Countywide Emergency Communication and Emergency Medical and Behavioral Health Services in Grant County. The tax sunsets on Dec. 31.
"The sole purpose of re-authorizing this tax is to run 911," County Manager Jon Paul Saari said. "This is the only source of funding for Central Dispatch. Without this tax, Silver City and Grant County would each have to pay half of the $600,000 to $650,000 to fund dispatch. We would have to take the funding out of other services."
The tax is not a new tax on goods and services, but is a tax that has been funding Central Dispatch and the sending out of emergency vehicles in case of accident, illness, fire and crime for the past 10 years.
"Without this tax, someone else would have to pick up the dispatching of emergency vehicles," Saari said. "It could be Lordsburg or Las Cruces, but that would delay service in the case of emergency. Dispatch here knows where things are and can direct emergency vehicles."
Two dispatchers are on duty at a time at Central Dispatch—one for Silver City and one for Grant County and the Mining District.
"I strongly encourage people to pass the tax," Sheriff Raul Villanueva said. "We really need it. It is the lifeline for residents and officers on the street."
Commission Chairman Brett Kasten and Commissioner Christy Miller passed the ordinance to create a mail-only ballot on the issue, which must be turned in by Sept. 18, so that the funding can be maintained, without a break. Commissioner Gabriel Ramos was out of town.
During public input, Ansel Walters, Fort Bayard Restoration and Development Coalition president, presented a bundle of more than 3,500 signatures of support for the preservation and development of Fort Bayard. The group gathered the signatures in less than a one-month period. The commissioners were also asked to support the efforts of the coalition.
Saari presented the financial reports.
As of June 30, the county had a cash balance of $3,765,266 in the General Fund. Subtracting the required three-twelfths cash reserve left a surplus of $1,659,924 at the end of the fiscal year.
The Road Fund ended the year with $426,243, minus the required one-twelfth cash reserve of $130, 935, leaving a surplus of $295,307.
The Corrections Fund had a balance of $363,030, with no required cash reserve.
Saari said the better-than-expected numbers were as a result of the federal payment-in-lieu-of taxes coming in right before the end of the year at $1.8 million instead of the budgeted $1.4 million. Property taxes were also higher than budgeted as the collection rate was at 97 percent. In addition, gross receipts tax revenue was budgeted at $450,000 and came in at $677,000.
Expenditures, as of July 24, were at $812,316. Saari said the last payment on the jail was made and workman's comp insurance is paid at the beginning of the fiscal year.
Commissioners presented a proclamation of congratulations and recognition to members of the Grant County Senior Olympics. Organizer Mario Quintana said 44 members, who qualified for regionals in Las Cruces, would be at the opening ceremony on Wednesday, July 25, and would be competing for the next three days.
"Senior Olympics keeps senior citizens in a healthy state," Quintana said. "I guarantee we will bring back medals."
He said the Morningstar team of softball players 50 years old and older had placed second in an El Paso, Texas, tournament, and the Grant County team of 60-year-olds and older had placed first at Pinetop, Ariz.
Raul Turrieta, Grant County deputy assessor, said: "All of us will try our best to bring back medals. Mario has done a sensational job keeping us organized and training."
Commissioners also proclaimed Sept 26-30 as Grant County Fair Days.
Saari said temporary repairs to the damage done by a windstorm would be made at the Fairgrounds in order to have the fair go on as scheduled. Permanent repairs would be made after the fair.
The next item of business was to delete six road graders from the Road Department inventory. Three were purchased two years ago, and can be sold for more than they cost originally, and new ones would have a full three-year warranty on them. The replacement graders would be bought at state prices, without the county having to go out to bid.
A lease agreement was approved with Satellite Tracking of People to provide monitoring bracelets for juveniles in the Juvenile Probation Office program. Saari explained $10,000 was for the ankle bracelets and $38,000 for surveillance.
A resolution was passed authorizing the mail-out of a ballot for the continuance of the gross receipts tax 1/8 increment to pay for Central Dispatch operating expenses.
Jean Fortenberry, Central Dispatch director, emphasized the increment was not a new tax. "Less than a penny out of every dollar spent is allocated to this service."
Clerk Robert Zamarripa said the ballot would be mailed out the end of August or first part of September, and must be returned by mail or dropped off at the Clerk's Office by 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 18.
Saari said budget adjustments were required, at the end of the fiscal year, to balance out everything, including grants and other revenues and expenditures in the budget.
For the approval of the final budget to be submitted to the state, Kasten asked if there were any substantial changes.
Saari said property tax was budgeted at $4.4 million, but $4.6 million was collected. Some transfers were adjusted, and the Sheriff's Department made some line item transfers. "The sheriff is meticulous in watching line items and using actuals," Saari said.
In addition, $10,000 was added to the budget for the Bayard Library for educational programs. "The library asked to carry over $8,000 and add $2,000."
"The budget held strong," Kasten said. "We will keep every aspect of the county running well."
In bids, commissioners approved the purchase and installation of computer equipment for the Sheriff's Department. Cellular, PCS, LTE and GPS combination antennas will be installed, as well as signal boosters and "hockey-puck" cellular/PCS antennas.
"We will have the computers installed in our units, so we can run driver's licenses and license plates," Villanueva said. "The officers will be able to park in neighborhoods, do their work and be more visible. The computers will also help communication with dispatch. The information will not go over the radio. People listen on scanners. The Silver City Police Department has the computers and has had success, although they are working through a few problems. The installers will do the training."
Kasten asked if cell phone service had been worked out.
"They are working on it, but we will get this equipment first," Villanueva said. "The equipment is being paid for through the Stonegarden grant.'
Saari said the air card costs would be borne by the county. "But the cost will be offset by the cut in gas costs, and wear and tear on the vehicles, because the officers will be able to work in their cars."
As the Grant County Indigent and Health Care Claims Board, commissioners approved 894 claims for $527,809.64.
Villanueva congratulated the Silver City All-Stars team for its state championship. "My daughter and (emergency management officer) Gilbert Helton's daughter were on the team. The Copper team has to be beat twice, so it has a good chance, too."
Treasurer Alfred Sedillo said his office is spearheading a school supply drive from county employees for students in need in both school districts, Silver and Cobre.
Zamarripa said as soon as the language is approved for the mail-out ballot, he would get it to the printer and then sent out.
Saari said Ramos was attending the softball games in which his 13-year-old daughter was participating.
Miller said she was working on an ordinance to allow in-county, but out-of-Silver City restaurants to be able to sell alcohol by the drink on Sundays. "It will be a boost for small businesses."
"We are also working on a travel policy," Miller said. "If an elected is out of the office, we would prefer the deputy be in the office, unless it is mandatory training for both."
The next meeting will take place in mid- to late-August.